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Overview Report, January–June 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 January-June 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
| 2005 Preliminary Inventory

Overview

In terms of general trends, the overall number of events in both Track 1 and Track 2 has maintained pace with the last volume. There appear to be fewer research projects initiated in this period compared to the previous two, but we will have to follow this to see if it is in fact a trend. As research projects tend to have quite a long life span, many of the ones highlighted in earlier volumes are still ongoing. The following are some of the more specific trends identified through analysis of this volume's entries.

Organizers and Sponsors

The clearest outcome from analysis of the organizers of the meetings and research projects covered by this volume is an apparent spreading out across more organizations. In addition, Thailand was not at all an active organizer on the Track 2 level, a significant contrast to previous volumes. The decrease in organization of dialogue by ASEAN country institutions overall can almost wholly be accounted for by Thailand's inactivity. India continues to be a major theme of many conferences, yet it was not as frequent an organizer as last time. Japanese and U.S. institutions continue to be the most active organizers of both Track 2 dialogue and research, followed by Singapore. Korean institutions continue to be active, and actually organized slightly more events than Chinese institutions during the period covered by this volume.

Institutions, corporations and foundations from Japan and the U.S. continue to be the most frequent sponsors, although the incidence of sponsorship of events and research projects by Japanese institutions fell as did the total number of Japanese sponsors. Korea saw a large jump in the number of Track 2 programs it sponsored, increasing from four to 14.

Participants

There were no major changes in the nature and origin of participants, but the following few points were noted. In Track 1, ASEAN met with its various dialogue partners less frequently than in the previous period. China continued to be the dialogue partner with the most bilateral meetings with ASEAN, followed once again by Japan, India and Korea (in that order). ASEAN countries participated more often in non-ASEAN initiated events than in the previous period. Especially notable was the presence of international organizations in quite a number of meetings, in particular those related to the tsunami and communicable diseases. The same organizations were also appearing in Track 2 meetings showing their bridging capability.

On the Track 2 level, participants from ASEAN countries were less present than in the previous period, especially in the cases of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Japan and China attended roughly the same number of meetings; Korea increased its presence, and this is perhaps related to it serving as a sponsor on more occasions than in the past. Russia was also present in marginally more conferences than previously. In contrast, Indian individuals participated in only half as many meetings as in the last volume, and Mongolian participants only appeared in four meetings in this period, compared with 13 in the previous period.

Themes

New Themes

While a similar level of attention was paid to staple regional issues such as the Six Party Talks, North Korea, maritime security, terrorism, and Taiwan, a number of themes made their debut in this volume. They included disaster prevention and mitigation, disaster relief and reconstruction, and the tsunami—an expected outcome given the major impact of the December 26, 2004 tsunami on many countries in the region. Additional new discussion topics were the World Trade Organization (WTO), as tensions rose as the end of Doha round approached; functional cooperation/ practical exercises and information exchange; and reform—political, legal, domestic—largely as related to China, but also relevant to discussions on Myanmar. This last theme appears to be part of a broader trend toward more frequent discussion of governance matters, especially in Track 2.

General discussion on the tsunami occurred just as frequently at the Track 2 level as in Track 1. The Track 1 meetings took up the issue as the main focus of their conference in most cases, whereas in Track 2 it tended to be one aspect of a broader agenda. In addition, Track 1 and 2 talked about disaster relief and reconstruction as frequently as each other, however disaster prevention and mitigation were left almost entirely up to government circles.

Functional Cooperation and East Asian Community Building

In this volume, there was less emphasis on capacity building and more on functional cooperation and discussions on the importance of conducting joint operations and collaborative exercises in various fields. The terminology did not even arise in the previous volume, whereas this time it was touched upon in Track 1, especially at ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) events, and arose on eight occasions in Track 2. Functional cooperation is increasingly considered to be an effective means of creating a sense of community. Major emphasis was placed on the importance of information exchange. The focus on functional cooperation also came into discussions on economic cooperation and integration, where there was a notable shift from general talks to specific talks on forwarding cooperation through such methods as exchange rate regimes, a common currency, and the creation of an Asian bond market.

The lexicon of the dialogues appeared to shift from "ASEAN community", "ASEAN integration", and "regional cooperation" to "East Asia". "East Asian community", or the "ASEAN Plus Three" formation. However, it should be noted that there was still attention in Track 1 on the ASEAN Charter, which is intended to establish a constitutional framework for and to facilitate the building of an ASEAN Community. In the lead up to the planned East Asian Summit, many groups were attempting to compile recommendations for the leaders of the region on what form the summit should take and what its role should be. The most active of these were the working groups within the Network of East Asian Think-tanks (NEAT) which met on the following themes: the architecture of community building, investment cooperation, financial cooperation, energy security cooperation, and economic integration through resolving global imbalances.

Regional identity, cultural identity, cultural cooperation, and people to people exchange were raised on significantly more occasions than in previous volumes, reflecting the feeling that it is important to achieve integration in all fields, not just economic, and that if the region is going to come together as a community then the sense of community needs to be developed and nurtured. Some of the meetings were recorded as having been held owing to East Asia Study Group recommendations.

There was much more discussion of communicable diseases, especially avian influenza and HIV/AIDS in this volume than previously. Track 1 took up these issues considerably more than in previous periods, perhaps now sensing the urgency of the issues in Asia. However, this trend could also be related to the desire to find areas for functional cooperation on issues of cross-border relevance. These and other specific human security related issues, such as humanitarian issues and human rights, tended to take precedence over traditional security matters in this period. In the previous volume, "regional security" was referred to one 28 occasions, falling to just two in this period, and this can probably be explained by a shift from topics that were general in nature to very specific ones.

Energy Security

Three meetings in Track 1 and 18 meetings in Track 2 tackled issues of energy security, including the peaceful application of nuclear energy, especially with respect to North Korea's intentions, and energy and environment issues as a result of China's rise. There was a fair degree of concern for environmental security and the potential for disasters, as well as concern for sustainable development. A focus on energy issues seems to explain the increase of agendas taking up the topic of Russia, as well as the increased participation of Russian participants in meetings and research projects.

Role of Major Powers

While the meetings on energy and environmental security accounted for a majority of the discussions held on the "rise of China", many others explored the role of China in the region and the role of other major powers including Japan, as well as the complexity of Sino-Japanese tensions. The rise of India was also discussed on many occasions, being coupled on half of all occasions with talks on the rise of China. There was a lot of interest in the U.S. (featured in three of the research projects in this volume) in terms of its role in the region, its presence and foreign policy interests, and what shape U.S.-Japan alliance relations will take in the future.