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Overview Report, 2006

Overview Report | Track 1 Meetings | Track 2 Meetings | Research
Publications
| Jan.-June 2007 Preliminary Inventory

This volume of Dialogue and Research Monitor includes dialogues, research, and publications conducted or published between January and December 2006 that were focused on East Asia community building or on regional cooperation on security-related issues broadly defined. We have identified 174 Track 1 and 270 Track 2 dialogues, as well as 22 research projects and 122 publications.

These numbers represent a steady increase over recent years. In 2004, for example, we identified 114 Track 1 and 199 Track 2 dialogues, while in 2005 those numbers were 132 and 216 respectively. While this increase may in part reflect the greater availability of information on the Internet, one indicator that the upswing is real is the number of events that are described by their organizers as "inaugural" or "first" meetings. Our list includes 21 new dialogue series in 2006-10 Track 1 and 11 Track 2-as compared with just 13 new initiatives in 2005. Eight of the new dialogues in 2006 dealt with security issues (including terrorism, security in Northeast Asia, and transnational crime), three focused on energy, two looked at the environment, two were Asia-Europe forums on economic issues, and others covered health, education, Northeast Asian relations, Korea-ASEAN relations, human rights, and social welfare and development.

Although the vast majority (more than 70 percent) of Track 1 events we identified involved ASEAN (102 events), the ASEAN Regional Forum (13 events), or UNESCAP (10 events), the list of organizers of Track 2 events was more diverse and involved a number of actors that had not appeared in the previous year's Monitor. Many of these actors were involved in dialogues focused on functional exchanges, while some were India-based organizations, which are becoming increasingly involved in East Asian dialogues.

Tables 1 and 2 show the most prominent themes that appeared in the survey. Table 1 shows the themes that served as the central focus of the meetings, while table 2 includes all themes that were on the agenda at the meetings. (In other words, a meeting's main theme might be the future of the Asia Pacific region, and it would therefore be included in table 1 as "East Asia/Asia Pacific-general," but participants at the meeting might have discussed development, economic cooperation, and environmental cooperation, which would be reflected in table 2.) In this overview, we will explore some of the key trends that we observed in 2006.

Table 1. Top ten dialogue themes
  Track 1 No. Track 2 No.
1 Bilateral/trilateral relations (e.g., ASEAN-China) 15 Bilateral/trilateral relations 18
2 East Asia/Asia Pacific—General
Health/disease
13
13
Traditional security 17
3   Disaster 16
4 Transnational crime (incl. human & drug trafficking) 11 Environment 15
5 Disaster 10 Health/Disease 14
6 Environment 8 East Asia/Asia Pacific—general 11
7 Finance
Economy
7
7
Nonproliferation/arms control
Economy
East Asian community
10
10
10
8    
9 Terrorism 6  
10   ASEAN Charter
Energy
Trade
9
9
9

Table 2. Top ten topics discussed at dialogues
  Track 1 No. Track 2 No.
1 Development/poverty 37 East Asian community 62
2 Economy 32 Traditional security 58
3 Health/disease 27 Environment 38
4 Terrorism 26 ASEAN community 37
5 Disaster 26 Development/poverty
China
Economy
36
36
36
6 Trade 21  
7    
8 Energy 20 Trade
Energy
31
31
9 Transnational crime 19  
10 China 18 Japan
Asia-Europe
28
28

Regional Integration and Community Building

The year 2006 saw further discussions and efforts being made toward community building in the East Asian region, both in the context of ASEAN and of East Asia as a whole. In 2006, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on the ASEAN Charter held a series of meetings-including meetings with ASEAN officials and civil society representatives-as they prepared their report and recommendations for an ASEAN Charter, which was completed by the end of the year for approval by the ASEAN leaders at the ASEAN Summit held in the Philippines in January 2007. In addition to the EPG meetings, there were a number of Track 2 meetings that examined such issues as human rights in the ASEAN Charter or that sought greater civil society input into the drafting of the charter. The final version of the charter was approved in November 2007.

While ASEAN was clearly a dominant player in these dialogues, there was also a significant focus on a broader "East Asia" or "Asia Pacific" community. The ASEAN Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Security Community were discussed specifically in 14 of the events listed here, divided evenly between Track 1 and Track 2 events, and were not included among the topics of any of the publications. By contrast, there were 17 projects that looked at the "East Asia(n) community," "Asia Pacific community," or "Asian community," and there were four new books on the subject. In addition, East Asian regionalism was the focus of seven new books and was discussed in a number of projects in the contexts of building regional infrastructure, regionalism versus universalism, or economic and political integration.

Interestingly, however, the East Asia Summit itself received relatively little attention in 2006. The outcomes and future plans were discussed in several meetings of ASEAN and ASEAN+3 officials, but on the Track 2 side it was discussed primarily in terms of how it would affect the development of other relations, such as in projects on "Japan-ASEAN partnership after the first East Asia Summit," or "East Asian Community after the first East Asia Summit." It also came up in the context of a discussion on the range of Track 1 and 2 dialogues in the region, a comparison of European and East Asian integration, and an event on pan-Asian integration. Overall, however, it did not seem to be a critical issue for discussion. This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that the East Asia Summit has resulted more from political maneuvering and strategizing than from a natural evolution toward community building.

It should also be noted that while the subregional architecture in Southeast Asia continued to evolve, increasing calls for some institutional mechanism to improve relations and build confidence in Northeast Asia made little headway in 2006, as will be discussed below.

Toward an Economic Community

The economy was a key area of discussion in 2006, encompassing discussions of economic growth and development, trade, and financial integration. In many ways, it seems that the security realm continues to be an area of cooperation, whereas trade and economic ties have made greater progress toward integration. In fact, economic integration was a topic of discussion in at least a dozen dialogues, and as a result, agreement was reached in 2006 to try to achieve the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 rather than 2020, as originally planned.

Given that nearly a decade had passed since the financial crisis, the impact and aftermath of that traumatic event was a theme in a number of publications and dialogues in 2006. Capital markets and investment promotion were also discussed at a number of meetings, with four meetings looking specifically at the Asian Bond Markets Initiative, and three more touching on an Asian currency unit.

Negotiations for various bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA) were underway in 2006. An ASEAN-Korea FTA was concluded in May, for example. Talks in various stages were underway on an ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand FTA, an ASEAN-China FTA, a China-Japan-Korea FTA, an ASEAN-India FTA, and an East Asian FTA. Trade was the primary topic of five Track 1 events and nine Track 2 dialogues, and it was on the agenda of an additional 52 events. Five dialogues specifically addressed the issue of an East Asian FTA.

Although the United States was engaged in its own bilateral discussions and was pushing APEC to consider an East Asian FTA, perhaps not surprisingly it seemed to be more engaged in the security aspects of regionalism-counterterrorism and nonproliferation, in particular-and less in the economic aspects. Very few events sponsored by US institutions looked at economic or financial questions.

The Doha Development Round, which was suspended in the summer of 2006 when parties failed to find common ground, was another topic addressed in a number of forums, both at the Track 1 and Track 2 levels. Participants at these meetings expressed concern over the stalled talks and the implications of its possible failure for the future of the multilateral trading system and for regional efforts to promote more even economic development.

The continued growth of the region has produced increasingly glaring economic gaps between and within countries. This issue and the need to alleviate poverty were major themes in 13 events and were discussed in a total of 73 events-more than 16 percent of all meetings listed here-split nearly evenly between Track 1 and Track 2. Development and the various challenges related to poverty were in fact the most discussed theme at Track 1 meetings and the fifth most discussed theme at Track 2 events.

Among the meetings that dealt specifically with this issue were the "ASEAN+3 High-Level Workshop on Poverty Alleviation"; a conference on "Asia 2015: Promoting Growth, Ending Poverty"; and the "Forum on National Plans as Poverty Reduction Strategies in East Asia." The possibility and means to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs) was a topic of particular concern in the region in 2006, as it appeared that not all targets would be met. One example was a UNESCAP-organized "Expert Group Meeting on Localizing the MDGs through a Community-Based Monitoring System." Not surprisingly, many of these meetings were organized by UNESCAP and other UN agencies, the ADB, and such development agencies as DFID (UK) and GTZ (Germany).

Regional Security Cooperation

Of the 444 dialogues we identified in 2006, roughly 13 percent focused specifically on the more traditional aspects of regional security cooperation-including such issues as nonproliferation, the Korean Peninsula, maritime security, military cooperation, and terrorism-while about 10 percent of the 124 publications focused on security as well. On certain security issues, where interests and needs are perhaps clearer, there seemed to be more action than dialogue, but on areas where there is still a great need for coordination and confidence building-such as arms control and terrorism-we found there were many dialogues this year.

As noted above, despite calls for an ASEAN Security Community, sensitivities regarding national sovereignty and other concerns have ensured that integration on the security front remains a distant goal, but greater progress is being made on the nontraditional security front. There has also been talk of creating a framework in Northeast Asia for greater security cooperation at the subregional level, perhaps based on the Six-Party Talks, but the events of 2006-particularly North Korea's missile launch in July and nuclear test in October-did little to further that objective. Strains in Japan's relations with its neighbors in the first half of the year also posed an obstacle to progress, although the October visits by the then new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to China and South Korea almost immediately after taking office seemed to bode well for a subsequent rapprochement between these three nations.

One of the more interesting findings of this year's survey was that traditional security was a more significant factor in Track 2 dialogues than in Track 1. Among the topics addressed in Track 2 dialogues, the broad topic of security ties in the region ranked second, following meetings focused on bilateral or trilateral relations (e.g., US-Japan-China relations, which in some cases dealt with security relations as well). Meetings that addressed the more specific security questions of nonproliferation and energy security were also among the top 10 Track 2 themes. By contrast, among Track 1 meetings, traditional security and terrorism tied for the sixth spot, while energy security and nonproliferation did not even rank in the top 10 themes. Furthermore, the Track 1 meetings that looked at bilateral or trilateral relations-the most popular theme-did not seem to focus on traditional security ties, but rather were first and foremost on economic ties and only occasionally on nontraditional security cooperation.

The topic of nontraditional security as a whole was the focus of six events (evenly divided between the two tracks) and was on the agenda of 25 dialogues. Human security was the focus of three Track 2 events and was on the agenda of 12 dialogues, which seems to indicate a gradually growing recognition and application of this relatively new approach to security. More specific elements of nontraditional and human security are discussed below.

Two security topics that appeared slightly less in 2006 than in the previous year were terrorism and maritime security. The number of events that focused mainly on terrorism remained the same, but there was a one-third drop in the number of broader events in which terrorism was on the agenda. It was addressed more at the Track 1 level than Track 2 and was sometimes dealt with in the broader context of transnational crime or cultural conflicts. The challenge of terrorism in East Asia was the main subject of just one book on our list (although it was discussed to some extent in six others), implying perhaps that priority has been placed on practical action rather than study. The year ended with bombings in Thailand on New Year's Eve, offering a frightening reminder of the importance of regional efforts on this issue.

Maritime security continued to be an important area of cooperation in the region, but there seemed to be a bit less talk and more action as some mechanisms for cooperation were already in place. (In 2006, for example, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, which had been concluded in 2004, came into effect.) There was a slight dip in the number of meetings focused specifically on maritime security compared with 2005, although the overall number of meetings in which it was discussed remained roughly the same.

Regional Cooperation on Transnational and Global Issues

One of the more striking findings of the 2006 survey was the increasing trend toward regional cooperation on and approaches to transnational issues and issues of global concern, including health, energy, disaster risk reduction, transnational crime, the environment, and intercultural conflict. These issues occupied 4 of the top 10 spots in terms of primary dialogue themes in both Track 1 and Track 2 dialogues. Together they accounted for more than one-third of all regional dialogues in 2006. These issues are, by nature, transnational issues that require coordination among national and local governments, NGOs, businesses, and communities, and there is much to be gained by sharing information, resources, and best practices with neighboring countries and with others around the world. It would appear that the development of deeper functional collaboration and even integration on these types of issues is politically less sensitive in many ways than collaboration on traditional security issues, and for that reason, regional cooperation on transnational and global issues has been playing a significant role in the community-building process.

The health field exemplifies this trend, as there has been growing regional and global cooperation on an array of health challenges. As the spread of HIV in Asia continued and the first fatal case of avian influenza was documented outside of Asia in 2006, the undeniable need to share information and resources and to coordinate responses was abundantly clear. In our 2006 list, there are 27 events that focus specifically on health and communicable diseases-up from 20 in 2005-while another 21 projects included some discussion of health issues on their agendas. Of the health-specific dialogues, 11 events focused on HIV/AIDS, 6 dealt with avian influenza, 6 focused on broader discussions of infectious and pandemic disease, and 4 dealt with other health issues. Research on the issue was scarcer, however, as we identified just two publications on the regional impact of and responses to HIV/AIDS. (We should note that our survey looks for policy research related specifically to the East Asian region, and medical and technical literature is beyond the scope of our survey.)

Disaster cooperation was another area of increased regional activity. There were 10 Track 1 and 16 Track 2 meetings focused on the topic in 2006, while in 2005, we identified just 4 and 3 respectively. When we examine how many meetings in total included disaster cooperation on their agendas, the number had nearly tripled from 2005 to 2006. Rather than focusing on disaster relief, the key words in meetings seem to increasingly be "disaster risk reduction," "disaster management," "disaster preparedness," and "disaster communications." As recent tragedies in the region have shown, confidence building among neighbors in the region and the creation and strengthening of frameworks for cooperation can play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of disasters. Many fear that the impact of global climate change will make this issue increasingly pertinent in the years to come.

There seems to be a steady focus in the region on environmental cooperation as well. Regional meetings examined such issues as sustainable development, haze and air pollution, recycling, green growth, citizen and local government participation in creating sustainable societies, biodiversity, and climate change resiliency. It ranked sixth among Track 1 dialogues and fourth among Track 2 events and was discussed to some degree at a total of 59 events. Many of these meetings looked at community-level actions and initiatives to mitigate environmental degradation, and they examined how nongovernmental and governmental actors can work together to achieve results. The need for regional cooperation was perhaps most clearly expressed in a project on transboundary haze pollution in Southeast Asia, in which participants recognized that a key contributor to the problem, Indonesia, did not have adequate resources to tackle the issue alone, and therefore discussed ways to improve regional cooperation and share resources and information to address the problem.

Dialogues focusing on energy security and cooperation were on the rise in 2006. In all, energy issues were the focus of 17 meetings and discussed in more than 50 meetings. On the Track 1 side, meetings were held in such contexts as the ASEAN+3 Energy Security Forum, the ASEAN Centre for Energy, and the ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting. These forums looked at issues including new and renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation. The rapidly growing demand for energy appears to have raised awareness of the need to share information, technology, and other resources. Track 2 meetings focused on climate change and energy security; competition for resources between major powers-particularly China, India, and the United States; coordination of energy security policies in Northeast Asia; and demand and supply outlooks.

Regional cooperation appears to have increased slightly in the area of transnational crime, including trafficking in persons, drugs, and arms. This area was the main subject of 11 Track 1 and 4 Track 2 dialogues, which was not a huge change, but it was discussed at many other events as well. In total, participants at 62 events took up this important transnational issue-nearly double the number in 2005.

One final issue of note in 2006 dialogues was culture, which was discussed to some degree by participants at 22 events and was the specific focus of 3 Track 2 events and 1 book. Culture was discussed primarily in one of two contexts. The first was the holding of, or calls for, interfaith dialogues, which seems to have been spurred in particular by the controversy arising worldwide over the publication in 2005 of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Dutch newspaper. The second, related context was the impact of Islamic communities in Asia and their connection to terrorism. In contrast to the "Asian values" debate of the 1990s, these discussions were firmly rooted in a recognition of the cultural diversity of the region and the need to overcome its potentially divisive influence.

Major Power Relations within the Region

China and, to a lesser degree, India were the focus of discussions and publications that looked at their impact on the region. But to an increasing degree, these countries were becoming involved in discussions of cooperation on energy, health, trafficking, and security issues, acting as important partners in addressing transnational and global problems. China's impact on the regional and global economy was a focus of a number of Track 2 projects, for example, but China was also involved in projects that promoted cooperation on integration, nonproliferation, drug trafficking, and security issues. This survey does not include events that examine single countries, but it does include events that look at the relations or impact of a country in the regional context. In that regard, China ranked 10th among Track 1 discussion topics and 5th among Track 2 projects-far exceeding any other country.

China was followed by Japan and then the Korean Peninsula. Japan-related discussions were often examinations of trilateral relationships-e.g., US-Japan-China, Japan-China-Korea, US-Korea-Japan, etc.-and were dominated by economic and trade issues. In light of the ongoing tensions on the peninsula (exacerbated when North Korea fired missiles in July and conducted nuclear tests in October), Korea-related discussions not surprisingly focused primarily on the security issues on the peninsula, nonproliferation, and Northeast Asian strategic relations. Only one Track 1 and four Track 2 meetings focused on the topic as a main theme, but the situation was discussed in at least 10 Track 1 and 25 Track 2 meetings, while an additional 12 events looked at the overall security and energy situation in Northeast Asia.

India, while still on the margins of the East Asian community, continued to be an active participant in regional events in 2006, and it appeared as the topic of 6 Track 1 and 12 Track 2 projects. At the Track 1 level, meetings were held on ASEAN-India trade, renewable energy, and development cooperation, for example. At the Track 2 level, it was discussed in the context of the impact of Indian growth on Southeast Asia; Japan-India cooperation to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region; India's response to the AIDS epidemic; India's role in the region; and India's energy demand.

There seemed to be a slight surge of interest in 2006 in comparative regionalism and lessons from European integration, which was evident both in the meetings and in the publications. Within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) framework, events looked at cooperation on environmental issues, energy security, labor, terrorism, and other issues, but there were also projects that considered lessons from the EU for the ASEAN Charter, like "Regional Cooperation: Experience in Europe and Practice in East Asia" or "Europe and Asia: Comparing Approaches to Economic Integration."

Finally, the strategic interests of the United States in the region, and particularly in Northeast Asia or vis-�-vis China, were discussed in 27 projects, most of which were at the Track 2 level. The US-ASEAN relationship was shifting somewhat as the United States signed the Framework Document of the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-US Enhanced Partnership in July and established trading agreements and closer security relationships with some countries in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, the United States in many ways appeared to be sitting on the sidelines. It played host to only two Track 1 meetings-both of which were gatherings of military officials. The majority of meetings organized by US institutions were focused on traditional security, terrorism, and other geopolitical topics. Other than an occasional project on energy or health, there was little indication of any significant involvement by the United States on some of the key functional challenges that are driving greater integration in the region.

Reading Between the Lines

The survey for this year's edition of Dialogue and Research Monitor placed greater emphasis on identifying 2006 publications related to East Asia. As we have carried out this survey in recent years, we have found that the information available in English on current research projects is very uneven and difficult to access. Organizations tend to describe general areas of research interest, or topics on which individual scholars are working, but rarely give information on the types of collaborative, discrete projects that we list in the Monitor. By contrast, because institutions actively seek to disseminate the end results of their research, publications are much easier to find.

Because our list is limited to English-language publications, there is naturally some bias in this selection. It is more reflective of research aimed at the broader, international community than at a domestic constituency, which may slant the way issues are framed and analyzed. Nonetheless, we believe that the list sheds light on what research has been done over the past several years and what publications might be shaping the debate in the years to come. As a result of this new effort, there are 124 publications listed here as compared with 62 in 2005.

Table 3. Main themes of publications
Themes No.
China 10
Traditional security and defense 8
Asia Pacific/East Asia in general 6
Economy/economic cooperation 6
Globalization 6
Bilateral/trilateral relations 5
Development/poverty 5
Southeast Asia 5
Korean Peninsula/North Korea 5

In some ways, the publications followed the trends that were seen in the dialogues. A significant number of publications examined the role and impact of China in the region, such as Power Shift: China and Asia's New Dynamics; The Paramount Power: China and the Countries of Southeast Asia; and China's Rise: Implications for US Leadership in Asia. Globalization's impact on the region was addressed by a number of authors, while various angles of Asian regionalism were examined as well. Financial and economic integration were high on the agenda, as seen in such titles as Prospects for Regional Financial and Monetary Integration in East Asia; Transforming East Asia: The Evolution of Regional Economic Integration; East Asian Finance: The Road to Robust Markets; From Crisis to Opportunity: Financial Globalization and East Asian Capitalism; and A Basket Currency for Asia.

Interestingly, however, one of the key trends we saw in dialogues in 2006 was not reflected in the publications. As compared with traditional security approaches and analyses of interstate relations, there were very few publications that focused on nontraditional security and the role of nonstate actors in addressing regional challenges. Among the exceptions were two publications by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at Nanyang Technological University-Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitisation and Studying Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Trends and Issues-and one from ISEAS, Asian Security Reassessed. There were just a handful of books that examined such hot dialogue topics as terrorism, piracy, infectious disease, or corruption. This could be interpreted as indicating that the focus is on actions rather than research, that the research being done is more technical in nature instead of being oriented to the policy and social science communities (and therefore would not be found in the sources covered by this survey), or perhaps the research has not yet caught up to this shift in focus yet. Dialogue and Research Monitor will be keeping an eye on this trend in the years ahead to see whether the research follows the interest in these pressing regional challenges.