Key developments and trends in Asia-Pacific security

Asia Dossier 2017

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 2017 is the fourth IISS Strategic Dossier to be published in association with the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. It focuses on four centrally important groups of regional security themes relevant to the policy-focused discussions that can be expected at the Dialogue in 2017 and beyond:

  • The evolving roles of the United States and China in Asia-Pacific security;
  • Responses by the US and regional states to regional security tensions, particularly in the South China Sea;
  • Emerging security questions relating to nuclear weapons, missiles and military cyber capabilities;
  • The prospects for regional security cooperation, including the challenges for the ASEAN-centred architecture.

Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2017 was launched at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday 2 June in Singapore.

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  • Preface

    On 2–4 June 2017, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) convenes for the sixteenth time its Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), the Asia-Pacific region’s foremost annual intergovernmental defence and security summit, for the sixteenth time. 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 and foreign-policy establishments of Asia-Pacific states – as well as other...
  • Chapter One: Asia-Pacific Policy Challenges for the Trump Administration

    A series of important security developments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region occurred during the final year of then United States president Barack Obama’s administration. These developments are likely to influence both the legacy of the so-called strategic ‘rebalance’, or ‘pivot’, to the Asia-Pacific and the challenges facing President Donald Trump’s administration. These challenges include nuclear and ballistic-missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), maritime disputes in the East...
  • Chapter Two: China’s Domestic Challenges and their Security Implications

    While Asia-Pacific leaders try to assess the implications of Donald Trump’s presidency for the region’s security, they also confront the troubling question of how a planned reshuffle of China’s leadership might affect President Xi Jinping’s hold on power and his approach to challenges at home and abroad. This change in leadership will be the most significant since Xi became General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012 and...
  • Chapter Three: China’s Strategic Objectives at Sea

    China is changing rapidly from a land-oriented power to a hybrid land–sea power, reflecting its increasingly widespread interests. As its overall national power grows, Beijing faces mounting domestic and international pressure to safeguard these interests. China is incrementally trying to secure outstanding territorial and maritime claims in the Yellow, East and South China seas (the ‘near seas’), while more slowly developing the capacity to protect its interests and increase its...
  • Chapter Four: American and Asia-Pacific Responses to China’s South China Sea Actions

    For much of 2016, as China continued to consolidate its forward presence in the South China Sea (SCS), the centre of international attention pivoted to court proceedings in The Hague, where the arbitration case lodged by the Philippines in 2013 progressed towards its conclusion. The award, made by a tribunal panel of five judges selected by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), was released on 12 July. Anticipation of the arbitral...
  • Chapter Five: India’s Evolving Strategic Response to China

    China’s expanding military and economic power is of increasing concern for Indian decision-makers. Despite growing trade between the two countries, as well as positive sentiments about various areas of cooperation in the January 2017 Chinese white paper on Asia-Pacific security, political relations are hampered by a variety of issues. These include an unresolved border and territorial dispute, China’s strategic ties and support to Pakistan, Beijing’s apparent undermining of Indian goals...
  • Chapter Six: Australia’s Uncertain Regional Security Role

    With the strategic outlook in the Asia-Pacific shifting towards greater uncertainty due to China’s growing power and ambition, North Korea’s nuclear-weapons activities, the election of Donald Trump as United States president and questions regarding the cohesion of Southeast Asia, Australia has important reasons to be concerned about its region’s security. At the same time, as a close ally of the US, a strong security partner of Japan, an important stakeholder...
  • Chapter Seven: The Trajectory and Implications of North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Development

    The troubling situation on the Korean Peninsula became more intractable in 2016 and early 2017. Despite sanctions and vocal international condemnation, ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-un’s regime has continued to improve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) ability to develop both nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile technology. North Korea has arguably achieved the status of a de facto nuclear-weapons state. At any rate, owing to the scale and success of the regime’s...
  • Chapter Eight: Managing the Asia-Pacific’s Nuclear Dynamics

    During the present decade, some analysts have argued that the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Northeast Asia, could face a severe nuclear crisis due to power shifts and uncertainties over the United States’ nuclear assurances, as well as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s progress towards a fully fledged nuclear-weapons capability. During the US presidential election campaign, Donald Trump criticised Asia-Pacific allies for their alleged ‘free-riding’, and suggested that Japan and the...
  • Chapter Nine: Military Cyber Capabilities in the Asia-Pacific

    East Asia’s security environment is currently shaped by contending strategic trajectories reflected in the struggle for dominance by the region’s two major powers (China and Japan); the divided Korean Peninsula; intra-regional competition in territorial disputes in the South China Sea; and, perhaps most importantly, the contours of long-term regional strategic competition and rivalry between China and the United States. Amid greater strategic uncertainties, there is ongoing debate with regard to...
  • Chapter Ten: Responding to Intensifying Security Threats in the Sulu Zone

    Terrorism, insurgency and transnational crime remained persistent security threats in archipelagic Southeast Asia throughout 2016. While the threat of attacks and kidnappings by insurgent and hybrid terrorist-criminal groups is primarily centred on the Philippines, the existence of other capable and ideologically aligned groups, ungoverned spaces and weak state institutions in the Mindanao–Sulawesi–Sabah triangle and beyond presents a broader threat to regional security, and potentially to maritime trade. However, the increasing...
  • Chapter Eleven: Implications of a Weakening Regional Security Architecture

    During the mid- to late 2000s hopes were high among analysts of Asia-Pacific security for stronger intergovernmental institutions in the region. The inaugural East Asia Summit (EAS) was held in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005 and was regarded by some observers at the time as ‘an historic and timely gathering’ that offered an opportunity to shape the region ‘in ways that will best maintain its economic dynamism, enhance regional security...
  • Chapter Twelve: Regional Defence and Security Dialogues

    From the perspective of 2017, it seems remarkable that one reason cited in a seminal 1994 article for Asia being at serious risk of war was the absence of multilateral forums, where pressing security issues could be debated and discussed. Today, by contrast, the region has almost a surfeit of regional security dialogues and rather than lamenting a lack of opportunities to talk, the complaints are more likely to be...
  • Conclusion

    Like the previous three volumes in this series, The Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2017 provides detailed, balanced analyses – often from new perspectives – of a wide range of regional security matters that have been on the agenda of recent IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) and Fullerton Forum meetings and are likely to be discussed at the 16th SLD in June 2017.
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