This week the annual ASEAN summit meeting is being held in Kuala Lumpur, followed by a series of confusing “ASEAN plus” meetings and concluding with the first meeting of a new, larger regional grouping, the “East Asian Summit”, attended also by China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Vladimir Putin is attending the summit as a suitor for Russia’s future inclusion in the group.
Regional maritime security was a key topic of discussion on the ASEAN agenda:
[Philippines President] Arroyo stressed the need for Asean to step up cooperation with other partners, such as the United States, China and Russia, in fighting terrorism and other security threats.
In the region, she said she would call for more collaboration in maritime security, saying, “Joint border patrols must be the norm across our common seas.”
This AP story indicates that pursuant to these discussions, some of the ASEAN nations reached an agreement to conduct joint terror patrols.
By contrast, the East Asian Summit (held this Wednesday) will be focusing primarily on trade and energy issues at this point, and less on security, as best I can tell from early press reports. The Asia Times comments on the role of this new summit vis-a-vis the annual APEC summit (which unlike EAS, includes the United States). The article suggests that APEC enhance its profile on homeland security issues:
While there already are APEC directors responsible for non-traditional security issues such as counter-terrorism and infectious diseases, APEC should consider appointing program directors to handle trade-related political, social and security issues such as supply chain security, maritime security, energy and the environment. A broader agenda for APEC would be fitting as APEC is the only Asia-Pacific institution that meets at the heads of government level.
The relationship between APEC and EAS is likely to be unsettled for years to come. But it’s important that the common security interests in fighting terrorism, responding to natural disasters, and preventing disease outbreaks not be trumped by this organizational gamesmanship. Hopefully, given the importance of these issues, this tension will not lead to inaction.
ps. For international summit aficionados, here’s the full week’s agenda in KL.