- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Southeast Asia: Whither Security Regionalism?

Sheldon W. Simon

Most Southeast Asians believe that their security is best maintained by engaging the great powers in multilateral endeavors such as the ASEAN post-ministerial conferences, ASEAN+3, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). While directed toward keeping China and the United States involved in assuring the region’s security, ASEAN also welcomes participation by India and Japan in these initiatives. Neither ASEAN nor the ARF, however, have been willing to tackle the core security issues facing the region be they external support for insurgencies, refugee flows, or disputes over sovereignty. Inclusive memberships in both organizations and the ASEAN consensus principle work against their effectiveness. But although ASEAN cannot solve Southeast Asia’s challenges alone, it can still try to control the agenda in its dealings with external powers. Thus, it may be able to enlist the great powers in Southeast Asian concerns, or at least ensure that Northeast Asia not ignore Southeast Asian interests.