Key developments and trends in Asia-Pacific security

Each year since 2002, the International Institute for Strategic Studies has organised the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. At this intergovernmental regional security summit, defence ministers, military chiefs and other leading members of the national-security establishments of the Asia-Pacific states – and other countries vitally involved in the region – meet to discuss the crucial regional security matters of the day. The Dialogue has become a fixture in the calendars of key defence decision-makers from the 27 countries that regularly send delegations.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2016 is the third IISS Strategic Dossier to be published in association with the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. It focuses on five centrally important groups of regional security concerns relevant to the important discussions that can be expected at the Dialogue in 2016 and subsequent years:

  • The role of the Asian major powers – China, India and Japan – in regional security. 
  • Maritime security challenges, including the militarisation of the South China Sea.
  • Potential regional flashpoints: the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan. 
  • Developments in regional states’ naval and defence-industrial capabilities.
  • Emerging regional security issues in the form of challenges from unregulated migration and the Islamic State, and the wider implications of economic-cooperation initiatives.

Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2016 was launched at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday 3 June in Singapore.

 

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  • Preface

    In early June 2016, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) convenes for the fifteenth time its Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), the Asia-Pacific region’s foremost annual intergovernmental defence and security summit. Each year since 2002, the SLD has brought together defence ministers, military chiefs, the most senior defence officials and other leading members of the national-security establishments of Asia-Pacific states – as well as other countries vitally involved in the region...
  • Chapter One: Evolving American Views of China

    In late 2015, as the Obama administration approached the last year of its second and final term in office, the contours of its China policy assumed a less accommodative and more competitive edge. For more than four decades, Washington had been guided by a deep-seated belief that over time, as China’s economy grew, Beijing’s values, priorities and policies – both at home and abroad – would come to resemble more...
  • Chapter Two: India and Asia-Pacific Security

    India’s approach to Asia-Pacific security has evolved within a policy framework that has developed over time. The critical years were 1990–91: the Cold War’s end made non-alignment, as Indians knew it, obsolete and eliminated a major external source of strategic support, the Soviet Union, while a financial crisis compelled India to open up its economy. After that, the story was chiefly one of unprecedented warming in India–United States relations and...
  • Chapter Three: ‘Proactive Pacifism’: the new normal in Japan’s foreign and security policy

    Since his return to power in December 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on an ambitious agenda to reform Japan’s security and defence posture. In Washington in February 2013, Abe declared that ‘Japan is back’. He emphasised that Tokyo must continue to be a guardian of the global and maritime commons and a ‘leading promoter of rules’ in areas such as trade, investment and the environment, and would work...
  • Chapter Four: The Militarisation of the South China Sea

    In 2014 China began to implement a master plan to expand and consolidate its presence in the South China Sea, transforming seven small rocks and low-tide elevations that it occupied into artificial islands. In the space of 18 months, Chinese vessels dredged and pumped sand from the seabed and coral ripped out of nearby reefs until these features encompassed an area of 3,000 acres (12 square kilometres). For comparison, other...
  • Chapter Five: Vietnam’s Major-Power Diplomacy

    The South China Sea is now an important theatre for major-power rivalry. Competition between China and the United States is intensifying this and since 2014, rivalry has sometimes threatened to escalate into confrontation. Against this background, those Southeast Asian states that are territorial claimants in the South China Sea need to consider their strategic orientations carefully. The choices they make could have important implications for their political and economic well-being;...
  • Chapter Six: Regional Maritime Security Initiatives

    Maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region is a complex subject, spanning a range of challenges from the tensions in the South China Sea through other territorial disputes to diverse, relatively low-intensity problems such as piracy and people-trafficking. The need for greater cooperation by regional states (and indeed external players) in the face of these challenges is increasingly apparent in view of the region’s economic dependence on the safe and timely...
  • Chapter Seven: North Korea’s threat to regional security

    In Northeast Asia, 2016 began with a bang. North Korea’s claimed test of a hydrogen bomb, proudly announced on 6 January 2016, was universally condemned, importantly and unanimously by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). On 7 February, before the UNSC had yet agreed a formal resolution and sanctions, Pyongyang signalled its indifference to the international community’s condemnation by launching a satellite. This was widely seen as a cover for...
  • Chapter Eight: Relations across the Taiwan Strait: still a major political and security problem

    Relations between China and Taiwan constitute one of the longest-running unsolved international political and security issues inherited from the Cold War. After the United States–China normalisation of 1979 and under the impact of China’s economic reforms, as well as Taiwan’s democratisation and globalisation, Beijing and Taipei have established multiple channels of communication, increased their economic interdependence and people-to-people contacts, and on the whole improved relations. Moreover, since Ma Ying-jeou was...
  • Chapter Nine: Naval-capability development in the Asia-Pacific

    On 27 October 2015, the United States Navy (USN) Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lassen transited within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the South China Sea, which China has claimed and occupied. The US described it as a routine ‘freedom of navigation’ operation (FONOP) in ‘accordance with international law’. It provoked a predictably angry response from Beijing, which characterised the event as threatening ‘China’s sovereignty and security’. The FONOP was...
  • Chapter Ten: Asia’s growing defence-industrial capabilities

    The Asia-Pacific’s defence-industrial environment is less ‘mature’ than that of the US or Europe, and traditionally regional states have bought major items of defence equipment from suppliers in the US, Europe or Russia. However, the emergence of China as an increasingly important force in the Asia-Pacific, among other factors, is a crucial influence on the national defence-industrial policies of regional states, including those of China itself. These policies help fashion...
  • Chapter Eleven: The Migration–Security Nexus in the Asia-Pacific

    Economic factors remain the most significant driver of human migration globally. Yet security concerns also play a major role in such activity, as people leave their homes to seek refuge from violence and other forms of instability. Mobility was a given before the establishment of nation-states, but there have been growing constraints on migration, especially from the early twentieth century onwards. For a variety of reasons, migration has become one...
  • Chapter Twelve: The Islamic State and Southeast Asia

    On 14 January 2016, Jakarta experienced jihadist violence for the first time since the bombing of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in 2009. Four militants struck a Starbucks cafe and a nearby traffic-police post in the Thamrin business district, killing four civilians before being shot to death. The attackers emulated the marauding style of the assault in Paris two months earlier, which had been carried out by supporters of the...
  • Chapter Thirteen: Economic-cooperation initiatives and security in the Asia-Pacific

    In addition to an expanding array of bilateral initiatives like investment treaties, cooperation programmes and free-trade agreements (FTAs), in 2015 major players in the Asia-Pacific were busy negotiating, signing and implementing important regional trade and economic-cooperation schemes. These include the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative and preliminary...
  • Conclusion

    Following the pattern established in the previous volumes in this series, the Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2016 takes up and analyses important themes that have emerged from recent Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) and Fullerton Forum meetings, often assessing them from new perspectives. The major powers and Asian security The security roles of the major powers have always constituted a central theme of the SLD, and the first three chapters of this dossier assess...
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