The ASEAN Political-Security Community: Enhancing Defense Cooperation
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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For more than three decades after its inception in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN was reluctant to institutionalize multilateral defense cooperation because it wanted to avoid becoming a military alliance or a defense pact. Instead, its members limited themselves to bilateral forms of defense cooperation with each other. However, at its 2003 Summit, ASEAN established the ASEAN Security Community later changed to the ASEAN Political-Security Community, with a goal to enhance its defense cooperation to a multilateral scope. Why did the member states agree to this change This thesis finds three reasons that ASEAN agreed to pursue multilateral defense cooperation. First, the main security challenges faced by ASEAN members had changed from traditional to non-traditional forms. These non-traditional threats are transnational in nature and difficult for a single state to solve. Second, in comparison to these threats, ASEAN members defense capabilities were large enough to make a difference. And third, mutual suspicions among these countries had declined over time, so they were more willing to cooperate with each other. Therefore, ASEAN established the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting ADMM for intramural interaction and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus ADMM-Plus for external engagement. Through these arrangements, the members work together to achieve the ASEAN Political-Security Community. However, their cooperation remains limited to exercises against non-traditional security threats, and it seems unlikely that this new commitment to multilateral defense cooperation can be used in response to potential traditional security threats in the South China Sea or elsewhere in the region.