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Overview Report, July–December 2005

This overview report looks at the trends in Track 1 meetings (governmental meetings) and Track 2 meetings (nongovernmental meetings, sometimes including government officials in their private capacities), as well as dialogue and research activities pertaining to Asia Pacific security and community building for the period of July-December 2005. For a full explanation of the scope and process please refer to the notes.

Overview Report | Track 1 Meetings | Track 2 Meetings | Research
Publications
| Jan.-June 2006 Preliminary Inventory

Overview

The list of meetings, research, and publications that follows covers the period from July to December 2005, an extremely eventful period for the countries of Asia Pacific in terms of cooperation on security-related issues broadly defined and in terms of further development toward an East Asian community. There was a notable increase in the number of Track 1 dialogues identified in this survey—73 in total—reflecting an intensification of discussions on East Asian regional integration as well as functional cooperation, while the volume of Track 2 dialogues held steady at slightly over 100. The Track 1 meetings were overwhelmingly connected to ASEAN or the ASEAN Regional Forum, which either organized or were directly involved in 46 out of the 73 meetings listed here.

Regional Integration and Community Building

Efforts toward regional integration and community building were progressing during this period in a wide range of fields and through a variety of fora. The topic of community building itself was a focus of discussions at nearly two dozen meetings during this period, while both new and established regional frameworks were examined, including several discussions on how to strengthen ASEAN through the enactment of an ASEAN Charter.

Both in Track 1 and Track 2 meetings, there were frequent discussions of ways to develop and strengthen the system of economic cooperation, trade, and investment in the region. Particularly at the Track 1 level, talks focused on progress toward the establishment of an ASEAN or East Asian Free Trade Area and an ASEAN Economic Community. Discussions of bilateral or ASEAN+1 free trade agreements were also prevalent. India's relationship to the region was a topic of note in a number of these meetings, and its participation—particularly in meetings related to economic integration—was increasingly evident. In addition, several publications on economic and trade issues were released during this period, covering economic regionalism and integration, East Asian capital markets, regional exchange rate regimes, and the implications for East Asia of changes in the international trading system.

Related to economic ties was the issue of cooperation on regional development and the reduction of development gaps between countries in the region. The overall regional economic health during this period was promising, but the benefits of economic growth were still uneven. Some of the development-related dialogues focused on development cooperation on behalf of specific areas, such as Mongolia, Vietnam, the so-called BIMP (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines) region, or the areas hit by the December 2004 tsunami. Other projects looked at specific development issues such as water supply or transportation infrastructure. Several dialogues looked at the progress made to date and the future steps to be taken to reach the Millennium Development Goals in the region. The July 2005 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting led to the creation of a new development framework, the ASEAN Development Fund, which is a common pool of financial resources intended to support the implementation of the Vientiane Action Programme.

Cooperation with countries or regions outside of East Asia was another strong area of activity. Track 1 meetings of course included discussions between ASEAN and its dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States), as well as India. Dialogues focused on such topics as US reactions to and role in the development of the East Asian Community, lessons from the EU experience for economic integration and community building, and how India might affect and be affected by Asian economic integration. A major new initiative in this sense was the East Asia Summit, held on December 14, 2005, in Kuala Lumpur. The summit included the ASEAN+3 members as well as India, Australia, and New Zealand. We will return to that initiative below.

A number of meetings focused on cooperation in addressing specific sub-regional issues. A September workshop, for example, focused on the Greater Mekong sub-region—particularly Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam—examining the roles and relationships of these states with the major Asian powers and their integration in the Southeast and East Asian contexts with reference to the security, economic, and sociocultural spheres. Two Track 1 meetings were held to discuss developments in the BIMP East ASEAN Growth Area. And a number of dialogues addressed relations and integration in Northeast Asia under such titles as "A Grand Design for Northeast Asia" and "Institutionalizing Northeast Asia: Making the Impossible Possible?"

Regional Security Cooperation

As we turn to the projects that focused on regional cooperation on security issues, it is helpful to briefly recall the context in which they were occurring. During the latter half of 2005, there were various elements of instability in the Asia Pacific region. In some cases, the root cause was domestic politics or specific political choices. The government of the Philippines was in turmoil as the presidency of Gloria Arroyo came under fire amid accusations of fraud, and the Thaksin government in Thailand similarly faced continuing pressure to resign. In Northeast Asia, tensions between neighbors continued throughout this period as the situation on the Korean peninsula remained unresolved, and Japan's external relations were strained following Prime Minister Koizumi's visit in October 2005 to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Looking first at the more traditional aspects of the security challenges, there were a number of events in the second half of 2005 that appeared to bode well for improved stability in the region. One such area was cooperation on maritime security. China, South Korea, and Japan came together for a cooperative maritime search-and-rescue exercise in July, for example, while Southeast Asian countries took concrete action during this period to address security in the Malacca Strait and the Sulawesi Sea (Celebes Sea), which are major zones for piracy and potential targets of terrorism. This is an issue that has an impact not just on physical security, but on regional trade, tourism, and development as well, and thus it is not surprising that the topic was firmly on the agenda of nine dialogues held in Southeast Asia during this period. Meetings were convened by such organizations as ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (Singapore), and the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP). In some cases, this was treated as one of many security challenges facing Asia Pacific, but more often it was the central focus of the meetings.

The global threat of terrorism was brought home to Southeast Asia in October 2005, when bombings in Bali killed 20 innocent people, highlighting the need to address underlying religious, ethnic, and societal tensions. Fourteen Track 1 and ten Track 2 dialogues dealt with the theme of terrorism, while seven publications also touched on this topic. These discussions tended to focus on the practical questions of regional cooperation both within Asia Pacific and between Asia Pacific and other regions on combating terrorism.

Energy security was on the agenda of at least five Track 1 and ten Track 2 dialogues. This was particularly salient in light of the rising oil prices and the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the US oil supply. Discussions within the ASEAN and ASEAN+3 context focused on energy demand, efficiency, and conservation; oil stockpiling as an energy security measure; alternative energy sources; and the establishment of an ASEAN+3 Energy Security Communication System to enhance the region's ability to respond to an energy emergency. The Asia Cooperation Dialogue launched an Energy Forum that focused on the role of energy in supporting economic development and industrialization in Asia. Track 2 dialogues tended to either look at the broad framework for energy security cooperation, although there were occasionally discussions of a more practical nature such as the Asian Development Bank's meeting on its program for the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas abatement (PREGA) in Asia.

Regional Cooperation on Human Security

The region's security was also threatened by challenges that strike at the individual level as much or more so than at the national level. The human security threats with which countries in the region continued to grapple included such interconnected problems as poverty, migration, infectious disease, drugs, and human trafficking. Given the trans-national nature of these problems, regional cooperation is essential to any solution, and accordingly there has been an increasing trend in recent years to address these topics in regional fora with the same degree of attention and gravity as more traditional security challenges.

Transnational crime continued to be a key topic in discussions on regional cooperation. Efforts to stop human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes were held primarily at the Track 1 level and generally through ASEAN-initiated dialogues. In the latter half of 2005, in the area of drug trafficking, for example, ASEAN sponsored a Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime Plus Three (SOMTC+3) Working Group on Narcotics and the 2nd International Congress of the ASEAN and China Cooperative Response to Dangerous Drugs (ACCORD). They also sponsored a Workshop on Policing Exchange and Cooperation among Capital Police Agencies from ASEAN, China, Japan, and ROK that took up the issue of enhanced policy cooperation to combat transnational crime, including drugs.

Less than a year after the tsunami, disaster response and preparedness continued to be a focus of roughly a dozen Track 1 meetings and a handful of Track 2 meetings as well. The Asian Conference on Disaster Reduction, for example, was held in Beijing on September 27–29, 2005, to follow up on the January 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction. This September meeting produced the Beijing Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia, which contained concrete measures for disaster risk reduction, including early warning systems and information sharing. As noted above, regional efforts to promote economic development in tsunami-hit regions were also addressed. One positive note during this period was the signing of the Aceh peace treaty in August 2005, which offered some hope in that area for recovery and development. (Aceh alone is estimated to have lost nearly a quarter of a million people in the tsunami, while half a million were left homeless.)

Infectious disease was another topic of concern that was discussed in a security context. Avian influenza was rapidly becoming a threat to the health and well being of the Asian region. The first human cases were reported in Indonesia and China during this period, and strains of the flu were spreading rapidly worldwide in animals, turning up in birds not only throughout Asia but in such places as Sweden, Kuwait, and Croatia. Meetings were held during this period by APEC, the World Health Organization, and ASEAN to discuss preparedness for and response to a potential epidemic. At the same time, HIV/AIDS continued to pose a significant and increasing threat to the region. By the end of 2005, there were roughly 8.3 million adults and children living with HIV in Asia (including South Asia) with over 1 million new cases of HIV infection reported since 2003. Intergovernmental efforts by ASEAN and ASEM on HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases were also notable.

Finally, another subject that has received modest but steady consideration over the years in Track 2 dialogues focused on Asia Pacific cooperation is human rights. These dialogues were often held in the context of regional frameworks for addressing the issue, such as the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, or the Framework on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region, but also in the context of greater civil society engagement in development and community building.

The Future of Northeast Asia

As noted above, a number of meetings focused on the sub-regional level issues facing the Asia Pacific region, and many dealt with the relations among the Northeast Asian countries and between those countries and ASEAN. There was an increase in dialogues—including the Six-Party Talks—that revolved around North Korea and the security situation on the Korean peninsula. The denuclearization of the peninsula was of course a key issue on the agendas of these meetings, but the majority focused on how to improve or institutionalize multilateral security cooperation in the Northeast Asian regional context. While the Six-Party Talks failed to produce the desired results during this timeframe, they nonetheless represented a cooperative mechanism that many view as having potential for addressing economic and security challenges beyond the North Korean nuclear crisis.

There was increasing reference to China as a member of the "East Asian Community," as a rising economic power, and as a significant partner in addressing human security issues and fostering economic cooperation. Some meetings and research looked at shifts in the China-Japan-US trilateral relationship and its implications for the region. Others focused on the implications of the "rise of China" for Southeast Asia and for US interests. Still others placed the question in the framework of energy strategies and regional security.

As mentioned above, the East Asia Summit was a significant event in this context. Initially proposed by an ASEAN+3–initiated study group, the summit was intended as a step toward forming an East Asian Community. In addition to the summit itself, five Track 1 and thirteen Track 2 meetings held during the July–December 2005 period considered the possibilities and implications of the upcoming meeting in such areas as peace and security, economic integration, disease prevention and control, and energy security. These discussions often focused on the role that this annual summit might play in furthering regional integration, and specifically how it might complement existing mechanisms such as the ASEAN+3 framework.

The meeting's final declaration noted that the East Asia Summit is intended to be an "open, inclusive, transparent and outward-looking forum," and its goal is to promote "dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest and concern with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia." The future of that new forum and how it will relate to the existing structures such as ASEAN+3, however, remained unclear at the end of 2005.