Key developments and trends in Asia-Pacific security

Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2015

Each year since 2002, The International Institute for Strategic Studies has organised the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. At this inter-governmental 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 2015 is the second 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 of the Dialogue in 2015 and subsequent years:

  • The definition and extent of the Asia-Pacific, and its inter-regional connections; assessments of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept; Middle East–Asia security connections; and South Pacific island security challenges.
  • The strategic roles of the Asia-Pacific’s two most important powers – the United States and China.
  • The increasingly important security roles of the region’s medium powers – Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russia.
  • Low-intensity and human-security challenges, ranging from internal insecurity in China and Myanmar to the potential for regional cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and search-and-rescue.
  • The continuing search for a peaceful and stable regional order, including ASEAN’s security role and the potential of strong new leaders in Asia to broker more effective regional security collaboration.

Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2015 was launched at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday 29 May in Singapore.

 

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  • Preface

    Each year in Singapore since 2002, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has convened the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) as an intergovernmental regional security summit. At the SLD, 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, as well as emerging and...
  • Chapter One: Redefining the region: the Indo-Pacific idea

    Monitoring, assessing and managing the security challenges in a particular region require an up-to-date understanding of how the region is defined, especially by the influential countries active within it. In 2015, security practitioners in the Asia-Pacific are increasingly encountering debate about the region’s strategic and economic character, most notably its overlap with another, even larger construct that is gaining in prominence – the ‘Indo-Pacific’. In recent years, leaders and senior policy...
  • Chapter Two: The Asia–Middle East Nexus: Dependency and Resilience

    Deep structural changes are occurring in the global economy, and developed and emerging Asian1 economies are leading the rebalancing of geo-economic power from the West to the East. The relationships between Asia and the Gulf on the one hand and with the wider Middle East on the other form key pillars of the evolving world order. These multidimensional interrelations are growing both in their importance and in their complexity.  As Asian...
  • Chapter Three: South Pacific Island States and Regional Security

    The South Pacific island states stretch from the Indonesian province of West Papua to Easter Island. The most important distinguishing feature of these states is their ‘smallness’; Niue, the smallest of them all, has only 1,398 people, while Papua New Guinea, the largest, has a population of approximately 6.5 million. As several international organisations have noted, the inherent physical, economic, social and political vulnerabilities that accompany smallness make small states...
  • Chapter Four: The United States’ Evolving Regional Military Posture

    In June 2011, at the 10th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, then-US secretary of defense Robert Gates announced the development of a ‘more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable’ military posture in the Asia-Pacific region. One year later, also at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Gates’s successor, Leon Panetta, stated that by 2020 60% of the US Navy (USN) and US Air Force (USAF) fleets, including six aircraft carriers, the majority of...
  • Chapter Five: China’s Regional Grand Strategy Paves the Way for Realising the China Dream

    China’s policy towards its periphery seems paradoxical to many foreign observers. President Xi Jinping has attached top priority to maintaining good relations with China’s neighbours, elevating the importance of China’s periphery above its ties with the United States. At the same time, Xi stubbornly insists that China makes no concessions in disputes with its neighbours over territorial sovereignty, and demands that Chinese maritime rights and interests are protected at all...
  • Chapter Six: Japan and its Regional Relations: Making Common Cause

    Since Shinzo Abe took office as prime minister for the second time, in 2012, Japan’s regional diplomacy has been at perhaps its most active and diverse in the country’s post-war history. Within the first year of his new premiership, he became the first Japanese prime minister to visit all ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Abe has, at the same time, developed Tokyo’s strategic relationships with...
  • Chapter Seven: Back in the Game: Russia’s Potential in Asia and the Pacific

    Since around 2000, when President Vladimir Putin visited Asia, Russia has tangibly intensified its strategic re-engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, in September 2012 chairing the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok. The escalation of tensions with the West over Ukraine in 2014 and a perceived need to diversify its trade and investment flows have deepened Moscow’s long-standing impulse to re-engage with both Asia and the Pacific. This desire...
  • Chapter Eight: South Korea’s Regional Relations

    In recent years, South Korea has emerged as a regional power not only in terms of playing a bigger role in Asia-Pacific affairs, but also able to take on broader international responsibilities. In 2010, it became the first country outside the G8 to host the inaugural G20 meeting; two years later, it hosted the Nuclear Security Summit, with over 50 global leaders participating.1 The country’s economy, focused on high-technology and...
  • Chapter Nine: Indonesia: An Emerging Maritime Power

    The modern Indonesian nation presents a paradox. Situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans and with some 5.8 million km2 of maritime area currently under its jurisdiction, the country – made up of around 13,000 islands – should be a maritime power. Yet, since achieving independence in 1949, Indonesia’s primary focus has always been internal, its government’s attention persistently directed ashore. The potential importance of the seas to the country’s broader...
  • Chapter Ten: China’s domestic security challenges: Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong

    Early on 6 December 2014, the Chinese state media reported the arrest of Zhou Yongkang, a recently retired Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member and the country’s former chief of domestic security. The public accusations against Zhou, which alleged that he was guilty of corruption and mafia racketeering, highlight a troubling dilemma facing Xi Jinping’s leadership, namely overhauling China’s domestic security apparatus while managing a number of threats to the security of...
  • Chapter Eleven: Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire

    Efforts to resolve Myanmar’s myriad ethnic insurgencies reached an advanced stage in early 2015. Like the country’s wider reform process, the peace negotiations involved ups and downs as political developments and continued fighting in the border areas affected negotiating positions. Reflecting improved trust, the government and combatant groups have been talking directly to each other and meeting frequently, and the ‘angels vs devils’ stereotype on both sides of the conflict1...
  • Chapter Twelve: Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief and Inter-state Cooperation

    It is difficult to generalise about almost all aspects of the Asia-Pacific, due to the size and diversity of the region. However, the countries of this disaster-prone area share an interest in collaborative frameworks for search and rescue (SAR), and for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). Coordinated responses and the pooling of capabilities are required to deal with accidents and natural disasters, such as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines...
  • Chapter Thirteen: Assessing ASEAN’s Security Role

    Assessing the contributions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to regional security can be a perplexing exercise. On the one hand, the facts on the ground persistently underscore the wide gap between aspiration and reality. While ASEAN’s adoption of a charter in 2007 and continuing efforts to create a regional community by December 2015 have been welcomed by its supporters, anticipated delays in the implementation of the ‘ASEAN...
  • Chapter Fourteen: New Leaders: New Possibilities for Collaboration?

    The various modes of security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific seem increasingly unable to keep pace with the range of challenges that this region continues to generate. Asia’s ‘alphabet soup’ of multilateral organisations is widely regarded as being too cumbersome and lacking the nimbleness needed to address many of these challenges; this applies particularly to those more traditional challenges at the ‘harder end’ of the security spectrum such as territorial disputes...
  • Conclusion

    The Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2015 looks at contemporary regional security concerns in the Asia-Pacific from two complementary perspectives. First, its opening three analyses represent an effort to stand back from routine assessments of regional security in order to assess: how the region should properly be defined; its extent; and its security-related connections with a neighbouring region, the Middle East. Second, the Dossier takes up important themes emanating from recent...
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