Relating the U.S.-Korea and U.S.-Japan Alliances to Emerging Asia Pacific Multilateral Processes: An ASEAN Perspective

Working Papers

Published By

Shorenstein APARC, page(s): 24

March 2000

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American military power underpinned the security structure of the Asia Pacific region during the Cold War. Post-Cold War, its role is still vital to peace and stability in the region. The most overt manifestations of American military might are the Japan–America Security Alliance (JASA) and the Korea–America Security Alliance (KASA). These bilateral alliances, together with a modified Australia–New Zealand–United States (ANZUS) treaty relationship, point to the diversity of security interests and perspectives in the region. Even during the height of the Cold War, the region never quite presented the kind of coherence that would have facilitated the creation of a truly multilateral defense framework of the sort exemplified by NATO. In Southeast Asia, the lack of strategic coherence resulted in a patchwork of defense arrangements between local and extraregional states. Dominated by the United States, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was only nominally regional.

During the Cold War, the United States entered into region-wide alliances to “contain” communism. In the post-Cold War period, uncertainties, rather than clearly definable threats, have marked the Asia Pacific’s strategic landscape. While not disen- gaging from the region, the United States is encouraging greater burden-sharing by its friends and allies located there. In consequence, JASA and KASA are undergoing change even as regional states accept their utility and reassurance value. At the same time, region-wide multilateral confidence-building and cooperative security processes, which involve practically all the states on opposite sides of the old Cold War divide, have emerged. China — the object of Cold War containment policies — is being constructively engaged through these multilateral processes. How the existing alliances, which still have their deterrent functions, can be related to these nascent multilateral processes is the focus of this paper. Because the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the driving force behind the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the only region-wide process seeking a balanced relationship among the external powers in the post-Cold War setting, we explore first the evolving ASEAN perspectives toward KASA and JASA. The paper will then relate the ASEAN-driven frame- work to the security concerns of Northeast Asia.

Published as part of the "America's Alliances with Japan and Korea in a Changing Northeast Asia" Research Project.

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