Getting Serious About Asia-Europe Security Cooperation

Dong Ik Shin and Gerald Segal

Survival, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 138-55.

Dong-Ik Shin is a Research Associate at the IISS, London. Gerald Segal is Senior Fellow for Asian Security Studies at the IISS, London, and Director of the Economic and Social Research Council's Pacific Asia Programme.

When Asia and Europe held their first summit in Bangkok in March 1996, little thought had been given to how the relationship might develop in the future. It was agreed in Bangkok that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process should continue; future summits have been scheduled for London in 1998 and Seoul in 2000. Much to the surprise of most observers, and to a mixed sense of pleasure and concern on the part of Asian and European officials, the ASEM process has sped off in diverse directions. Various initiatives have been undertaken under ASEM auspices, some of which are devoted to merely sustaining the ASEM process, and others of which are designed to develop 'products' to come out of ASEM 2 in London. Unlike the more developed and longer-standing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process, the ASEM process explicitly includes political and security - as well as economic - matters. But while there is a great deal of optimism that ASEM can create a serious agenda for economic relations, there is far less detailed thought about its security agenda.1 As will be argued below, if Europeans and Asians wish to develop a serious and well-rounded relationship, then they can - and must - become much more serious about security cooperation.

It is easy to be cynical about a security dimension to the Asia-Europe relationship. Europeans withdrew from a major and active military role in Pacific Asia decades ago. The United States is the only world superpower and a major player in both Asian and European balances of power. Given these realities, any thinking about security issues in ASEM has to recognise the limits of security cooperation, and the continuing central role of the US. But even within these limits, there is a case to be made that Europeans and Asians need to work more closely together on security issues.

Europeans have as much stake in a stable and prosperous Pacific Asia as the Americans, and arguably both Europeans and Americans have an even greater stake in Pacific Asia than they have in a stable Middle East. Cynics like to suggest that Europe lags behind the US in developing an economic interest in Pacific Asia and that it has no interest in serious security cooperation with Asians. In recent years, however, Europe's economic relationship with Pacific Asia has caught up with US levels of investment and trade. In the security sphere, Europeans sometimes have different traditions and policies from Americans and will therefore bring different (but not necessarily inferior) ideas to the relationship with the region.

The analysis and argument that follows is designed to contribute to what is admittedly a nascent process of thinking seriously about security in ASEM. Embarking on such a task is motivated by an assumption that neither Europeans nor Asians will take each other as seriously as they should and could if relations are left entirely in the economic domain. Nowadays power and influence require a more full-bodied sense of interests and relations. The transatlantic relationship - which includes economic and security cooperation - is an example of a full-bodied relationship, whereas the APEC model - which only deals with economic issues - is more an example of 'lite' diplomacy.2 If Europeans wish to be taken seriously in Pacific Asia, they will have to think hard about security questions. If Asians wish to help in keeping their region secure and prosperous, and have an easier time 'managing' the United States, they will have to engage in tough discussions with Europeans about common security interests. This is not a matter of wishful thinking; there is already important evidence of Euro-Asian cooperation in both hard and soft security, and there is a substantial and achievable agenda for future action.

One important, albeit very sensitive, issue on the Euro-Asian security agenda is the United States. While it is true that the US is the only superpower, it is also true that Europeans and Asians do have reasons to talk about the best way to encourage the US to act in a more amenable and multilateral fashion on security and other issues. As a result, an important part of the analysis that follows concerns the best way for Europeans and Asians to deal with the US together on security matters.

The Origins and Outcomes of the First ASEM

There are both formal and more powerful (but less formal) explanations for the origins of ASEM. The formal explanation reaches back to earlier dialogues between Europeans and Asians, such as the EU-ASEAN (European Union-Association of South-east Asian Nations) dialogue, regular EU-Japan and EU-South Korea talks, and recent talks between European countries and China.3 These diplomatic processes covered bilateral interests and regional issues. To a certain extent, these channels provided grounds for the ASEM, although the original idea of establishing a multilateral meeting between the Heads of State and Government of Asian and European countries was first raised by the private sectors of the two regions. The idea was broached at the World Economic Forum's 'Europe-East Asia Economic Summit' in Singapore in October 1994. Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, representing ASEAN countries to the EU, then suggested the idea of a summit meeting during consultations with former French President François Mitterrand that same month. In earlier years, following the end of the Cold War, ASEAN was greatly encouraged by the successful development of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), launched in July 1994. The ARF included the EU because the latter had been a long-standing 'dialogue partner' in the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC).4 As Asians, and especially ASEAN states, began exploring ways to manage their regional security through the ARF, they clearly saw value in European participation.

ASEAN's incentive to involve European countries as partners in cooperation had much to do with the change in the global power structure. ASEAN wanted to maintain regional stability at a time when it required a peaceful environment to allow it to develop its economic structure from low-wage-based to high-technology and advanced industry. Since ASEAN and other East Asian states had established political and economic relations with North America through APEC, the Asians wanted to establish links with the other key player in the global economy - the European Union. The Europeans had been kept out of APEC, partly because it was intended as a way of preventing the Europeans from creating a 'Fortress Europe'. But as European countries increasingly became an attractive source for finance and technology, Asian countries were eager to develop more balanced relations with Europe.5

Not very far below the surface of the official rationale for closer Euro-East Asian relations was the desire on the part of Asians - and Europeans - to reduce dependence on the United States and enhance their international leverage. Some ASEAN states were particularly frustrated with US opposition to the formation of the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC), a regional group geared towards economic cooperation among only East Asian countries. This proposal was originally made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed and endorsed by a consensus of ASEAN countries in 1992. The United States strongly opposed the EAEC, and the US' closest allies in Pacific Asia, most notably Japan, were reluctant to endorse an EAEC that so upset Washington.6 Generally, though, both Asians and Europeans were developing a sense that, just as APEC was a way to help keep the Europeans committed to open multilateralism, so a closer Euro-Asian dialogue could maintain Washington's commitment to open multilateralism and more equal partnerships with allies.

Although European countries had not been so active towards Asia in the initial stages, the idea of establishing a new mutual-cooperation link between the two regions was subsequently supported by European countries. The EU's main concern was European integration and its relation with the United States and with Russia and Eastern European countries. Asia was a lower priority on its diplomatic agenda. As Asia's role in the world economy continued to grow, however, European countries feared that they might be left behind in cooperating with Asia. As a result, the EU changed its attitude towards Asia and adopted a new Asian strategy in December 1994, stressing free trade as well as political cooperation.7

ASEAN's initiative in hosting the summit meeting between Asia and Europe was officially accepted at the ASEAN-EU meeting in Singapore in May 1995. China, Japan and South Korea were also invited to join the Asian side by virtue of their political and economic status within the region. Among these three countries, Japan and Korea were the most positive about the meeting because they believed that economic and political relations with the EU could further be expanded through ASEM. Japan, as the only Asian member of the Group of Seven nations (G-7), wanted to play a substantial role, one commensurate with its economic power within the multilateral forum. South Korea, which became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 1996-97, after its entry to the UN in 1991, has actively pursued its globalisation policy by signing the Framework Cooperation Agreement with the EU and joining the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, both in October 1996. China was at first more reluctant, but grew more positive when it became clear that it risked being left outside the new framework. As Sino-US relations deteriorated, China built closer relations with Europe and wanted to work with other Asians towards such a goal.8 Inaugurating ASEM was discussed further during the ASEAN-PMC in Brunei in July 1995, and both Asian and European sides agreed to hold the first ASEM in Bangkok in early 1996. Although there was no formal agenda, a list of topics for discussion in nine areas was agreed.

At that first meeting, the 25 Heads of States and Governments adopted the 20-point Chairman's Statement.9 The statement called not only for strengthening dialogue between Asia and Europe on general political and security issues, but also enhancing economic cooperation; it also emphasised confidence building and furthering understanding between the two regions. The meeting called for cooperation in promoting reform and democratisation of the United Nations system as well as global initiatives on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Participants also agreed to work together in addressing environmental issues, drug-trafficking, terrorism and international crime, poverty alleviation and AIDS prevention.

To implement the follow-up measures, ASEM agreed to hold relevant Ministers' and Senior Officials' Meetings, and to establish the 'Asia-Europe Business Forum' for fostering greater links between the business and private sectors. In order to strengthen intellectual exchanges between the peoples of Asia and Europe, participants decided to establish an 'Asia-Europe Foundation' and networks among appropriate think-tanks. Finally, the meeting agreed to hold the second ASEM in the United Kingdom in 1998, and the third ASEM in South Korea in the year 2000.

Despite the diplomatic bonhomie, it was understood that differences remained in the economic development and historical and cultural backgrounds of Asia and Europe. If the formal and informal objectives of ASEM were to be achieved, then there would have to be both progress in sustaining and enhancing the ASEM process, as well as developing concrete results. Just as APEC runs the risk of failing the 'bicycle test' of history - if you do not move forward, you fall over - so ASEM would only impress the US if real progress was made in the near future.10

As in the APEC case, the ASEM process suffers from mutual misunderstanding on the part of many participants. Some Asians believe that misperceptions between Asia and Europe will exist as long as colonial memories remain in the minds of their people. Senior Singaporean official Kishore Mahbubani argues that 'a flawed element in European strategy is the assumption that the rest of world will follow the European social idea. This belief in the superiority of the Western idea creates a unique weakness or blindness for Europe.' 11 In the Asian Discussion Paper produced by ten Asian countries in December 1995, it was pointed out that 'many in Europe feel threatened by the rise of Asia, and the high levels of current unemployment in Europe are the result of Asian industries which undercut their European competitors through being allowed to produce low-cost products.' 12 Because of this problem, the task of changing mind-sets was seen as one of the major purposes of the first ASEM and the ongoing process.

The way in which human-rights issues were handled in ASEM says something important about how carefully the partners wish to proceed. At one level, it was agreed that multilateral dialogue such as ASEM could provide an opportunity to discuss ways of enhancing understanding of human-rights issues. At the first ASEM, however, discussions of politically sensitive issues in which the EU is particularly interested - such as human rights and the promotion of democracy - were restrained so as not to interfere with existing cooperative relations between the two sides. Most Asian countries were opposed to openly addressing the human-rights issues in specific countries, such as China and Indonesia, especially in a high-profile manner. Thus the issue of East Timor was raised by the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres only at an informal dinner meeting.

Nevertheless, it was clear, even at its inception, that the ASEM process would extend beyond economic issues. The specific form in which political and security issues were to be handled was left to the various initiatives that were set up after the Bangkok meeting. In the period after Bangkok, there has been a plethora of meetings; conference fatigue and 'Senior Official overload syndrome' has loomed. While specific initiatives on economic issues seem easy enough to envisage, officials have found it harder to think strategically about the ASEM agenda on security. The Europeans and some Asian states - South Korea, Japan and Singapore - are keen enough to tackle political and security issues, but other Asian states are, at least for the moment, not keen. What follows is a review of current thinking and some analysis of what might be the most productive areas for future security cooperation.

The Security Agenda

In an age when the definition of security is hotly contested, this is not the place to offer anything more than a pragmatic understanding of the term for ASEM. What is obvious to policy-makers, even if it is not to academic specialists in both Europe and Asia, is that, in an interdependent world, the economic and military dimensions of security cannot be separated. Is supplying energy to booming economies an economic or security issue? Does the presence of a huge trade surplus have security implications for two rival states (for example, China and the United States)? Clearly it makes sense to have a flexible understanding of security in the real world.

Hard Security

Europeans used to be major players in the 'hard security' of Pacific Asia. After the colonial powers withdrew from Asia, however, there was a period of distancing between Asia and Europe. While the US was carving out its sphere of influence, European countries focused on the threat from the former Soviet Union and how to cooperate with the US. Europe's security ties with Asian countries were relatively weak, although it had traditional interests in the region stemming from historical relations.

When the Cold War ended, there was little left of high-profile, hard European security in Pacific Asia.13 The UK and France still deployed a small number of forces in the region, partly as residual colonial commitments. European forces exercised with regional allies in the US-led RimPac exercises. Bilateral cooperation among armed forces took place - for example, between the UK and Japan during the 1990s. The most important network involving Europeans was the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) linking the UK with former colonies in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. In recent years, Australia has played the leading role in the FPDA, but the UK has reaffirmed its commitment, even after the planned withdrawal from Hong Kong in June 1997.

Cynics are correct in noting that an important part of the British motive in sustaining the FPDA is the desire to sell arms in Pacific Asia. They are also right to view arms sales as having much to do with economic motives. But weapons transfers are more than just money-making ventures: arms transfers have a serious security calculation. When weapons and weapons systems are sold, they often include not only high technology, but also a sustained effort to train soldiers and provide follow-on technology. Transfers include discussions about doctrine and training methods. In many cases, they also include implicit and sometimes explicit transfers of intelligence information.

European countries are often prepared to offer better terms to local states - for example, allowing Asians more access to classified source codes - and Asians find that competition in the arms market helps make the Americans more willing to satisfy Asian arms requirements. Sometimes the equipment and training provided by Europeans is better suited to the needs of Asia's middle powers than US equipment. European companies have already begun to work well with the main regional Western ally - Australia - in multilateral defence cooperation.

Arms transfers obviously need to be conducted in a way that helps build security and enhance deterrence. Arms transfers motivated by a short-sighted commercial temptation could increase instability by undermining the regional balance of power, but a sensible arms-transfer strategy is vital to building security and enhancing deterrence. Similar calculations applied when the UK and France (like the US) signed defence agreements with Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates after having sold large amounts of weapons to these Gulf states. If Europeans are anxious to see South-east Asians defend themselves in the South China Sea, believe that South Korea should be able to defend itself against North Korea, or think that robust deterrence should be maintained in the Taiwan Strait, then arms transfers can be powerful and important contributions to hard security.

It is therefore significant that European arms transfers to Pacific Asia have sustained a market share of more than 20% since 1992. The main arms suppliers are the UK, France and Germany, all of whom can provide state-of-the-art equipment and can sustain long-term security relationships. Europeans can expect to expand their market share and thereby extend their role in the region's hard security.

Arms transfers and the details of military-to-military cooperation are obviously not issues to be discussed at the highest ASEM level. Many of the calculations about security interests include an assessment that one or other ASEM member can be a threat to a neighbour. But if the ASEM process is understood as 'variable geometry' - different tasks can be backed by changing coalitions of the ready, willing and able - then certain Europeans and certain Asians may find reasons to work together on hard security. For that reason alone, security issues can and are likely to be raised in the formal ASEM agenda.14

Another reason to discuss hard security relates to the possibility of deploying European military assets in Asian zones of tension. Imagine if the United States sought support from allies in breaking a possible blockade in the Taiwan Strait, or in defending South Korea from a North Korean attack. At least some Europeans are likely to heed a US call for allies, much as they did in the 1991 Gulf War. As in the Gulf, Washington would take the lead, but the Europeans would be significant players. It was a well-leaked secret that, during the Taiwan Strait crisis of March 1996, the US consulted more closely with the UK and France about possible contingencies than it did with nearly all states in Asia-Pacific. For Europe, defending a stable Pacific Asia that remains open and connected to the global economy is a vital interest, and one worth defending with military power. The Europeans would be foolish to free-ride on the US willingness to defend an open and stable global trading system if a challenge arises in Asia.

Soft Security with a Hard Edge

If Europeans and Asians are serious about working together on some aspects of hard security, then they should discuss the wider security environment in an ASEM context. Europe and Asia can develop security cooperation by exchanging views on international security and sharing responsibilities on common security issues. Therefore, ASEM needs to undertake a regular and detailed review of political and security situations in both regions. These discussions should include the roles of Asians and Europeans in dealing with issues of regional and global importance. Although direct participation in each other's security is limited, political and diplomatic support can, and probably will, be of greater importance in mutual security cooperation.

One obvious area for closer Euro-Asian cooperation is in confidence-building measures (CBMs). As is clear in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) process, it is useful to establish methods and habits of consultation and cooperation. Asia hopes that Europe will share its experience about the regional operation of CBMs, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. In that context, Japan and Korea have participated in OSCE meetings with 'Partner for Cooperation' status. While Europe already has regional institutions - such as the OSCE, NATO and Partnership for Peace - Asia has only the ARF, which is still in its infancy, but is making modest progress in CBMs.

The OSCE has been successful in implementing pre-notification of military exercises, 'open-sky' policies and exchanges of military officers. In Asia, however, only ASEAN has had some experience of some CBMs, through bilateral Joint Commission Meetings and multilateral-level ASEAN meetings. The countries in North-east Asia have only begun to discuss CBMs through the North-east Asia Cooperation Dialogue - a semi-official dialogue between the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea launched in 1993 - with China's positive participation in the dialogue. Europe's support and cooperation will be important in enabling Asia to generate its own security mechanisms for CBMs and conflict prevention in the region. Since the EU is already a member of both the ARF and ASEM, inter-regional cooperation on CBMs can be developed without too many complications. European countries can share their experiences with Asian partners through meetings or even via more concrete training, as was explored in the Middle East arms-control process.15

Confidence-building measures in Europe were developed by a combination of political and military factors over 15-20 years. Europeans are the first to acknowledge just how complex the CBM process can be and how the CBM agenda can easily be over-sold.16 Accordingly, confidence-building in Asia will take time because the region is divided by different cultural, historical, political and economic conditions. Several basic lessons can be learned from the European experiences, however. First, the development of arms-control and CBM initiatives is inevitably a highly selective, evolutionary process. Second, positive political developments among neighbours can create conditions for the successful pursuit of CBMs. Third, the most important task of CBMs is to promote transparency and undermine the rationales behind secrecy.17

Europeans can be helpful at a practical level in helping Asians work through implementing CBMs. Of special interest are those concerning information and notification of exercises and operations. Such measures might include defence-policy publication, enhancing high-level defence contacts and exchanges among defence staff-college and military-training vessels, encouraging compliance with the UN Register of Conventional Arms, and notification of major military exercises. Parallel with the ARF activities on CBMs in Asia-Pacific, ASEM could hold working-group meetings (or workshops) on promoting transparency and CBMs with more input from all EU members. As in the Middle East case, Europeans can be of value not just in conference rooms, but also in field exercises and detailed operational discussions that explain how such CBMs work. The best form of collaboration would include intensive contacts among military officers working on issues of current concern.

Another area of cooperation to be explored is 'preventive diplomacy'. European countries have undertaken preventive diplomacy and peace-making efforts to help stop the emergence or escalation of conflicts. Europe's experiences and principles - such as early mediation and the preventive deployment of troops within the OSCE framework - can be valuable to Asia. As a mid-term measure, Asian countries may also want to explore the idea of a regional mechanism for conflict prevention and risk-reduction that the OSCE has successfully pioneered for European security.

Peacekeeping operations are likely to be another major and fruitful area for mutual cooperation. European countries have played a leading role in promoting peacekeeping activities in various conflicts and Asian countries are actively expanding their peacekeeping roles. Europeans have already been very active in the peace settlement in Cambodia, where a large UN force was deployed from February 1992-November 1993. Individual European and Asian countries (for example, Malaysia and the UK) already have detailed working relationships in peacekeeping, including the provision of equipment to Asian states, such as Malaysia.

Individual EU states are the largest contributor to the UN's peacekeeping operations budget, providing over one-third of the total contribution and nearly one-third of the total personnel assigned to UN peacekeeping operations. Asian countries - in particular Japan, Malaysia and Korea - have greatly increased their contributions to peacekeeping activities by providing both military personnel and finance. If the United States remains reluctant to put its forces under UN command, peacekeeping operations will become an even more important area where Europeans and Asians can discuss expanding their cooperation at the ASEM level.

Asian and European countries can work together closely within the UN system; they can strengthen UN peacekeeping activities by taking part in the UN Stand-by Arrangements and by becoming Parties to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. ASEM member-countries can also promote greater sharing of peacekeeping experience and expertise through training courses on specialised peacekeeping activities; they can foster cooperation among national peacekeeping training centres. Training peacekeeping personnel and providing necessary equipment will be essential for the success of such activities. It is noteworthy that Northern European countries in Europe have already hosted peacekeeping training courses for military personnel and civilian staff from Asian countries.18

To improve the capabilities of peacekeeping forces, seminars could be held at the ASEM level on European experiences in deploying the NATO-led Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) to Bosnia. Such efforts will build a deeper understanding of peacekeeping operations and find more areas for cooperation between the two regions. Peacekeeping, with its obvious links to those involved in 'harder security', illustrates that the ASEM process can involve security issues in a mature and meaningful manner.

Introducing a peacekeeping regime might be accompanied by CBMs. In a region where states are unable or unwilling to negotiate CBMs of their own accord, cooperation in peacekeeping might itself be considered an important measure for confidence building.19 In this sense, joint peacekeeping activities can provide some Asian countries (notably China, Japan and South Korea) with opportunities to ease suspicions among their neighbours. This type of transparency-enhancing CBM could be a valuable lesson for Asian countries lacking experience of military cooperation.

As Europe and Asia clearly have common goals in creating a climate of peace and prosperity in both regions, non-proliferation and disarmament issues - such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention, Missile Technology Control Regime and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards - should also be discussed in the global security context. Both Asia and Europe can exchange views, and cooperate on arms control and disarmament in ASEM - as well as in multilateral fora, such as the UN and the Conference on Disarmament. These major initiatives embrace regional security imperatives and therefore discussions on enhancing global regimes have both a global and regional impact.

Although the NPT has been extended indefinitely in the 1995 New York Review and Extension Conference, there remains a risk of nuclear proliferation in the NPT regime. For example, while North Korea claims special status under the NPT, it is unwilling to allow the IAEA to make special inspections at suspicious sites where undeclared reprocessing activities have taken place. Since the non-proliferation regime must keep a careful watch for further cases of actual or potential non-compliance in the world, Asia and Europe have good reason to cooperate through the ASEM process to prevent any secret nuclear development or clandestine nuclear trade, and to strengthen the IAEA's effective safeguard systems.

Europeans, after a slow start, have finally made a serious financial contribution to the Korean Peninsula Economic Development Organisation (KEDO), established in March 1995 following the October 1994 US-North Korean nuclear agreement. South Korea and Japan were both keen for Europeans to contribute actively on an issue of key Asian insecurity, but those European states strongly opposed to nuclear power of any sort delayed effective EU action for some time. Seoul, however, kept up a constant campaign to gain a European contribution to KEDO. Tokyo reminded Europe that Asians helped with the post-Chernobyl relief efforts, believing that such matters are of global importance. In the end, the Europeans did make a serious contribution to Asian security and demonstrated that there is a concrete basis for further Euro-Asian cooperation on such soft security issues with hard edges.

Unconventional and Non-Military Security

Energy security is an important issue which both Asian and European countries can also address within the context of comprehensive security. Asia's emerging energy problem could cause security problems if such high rates of economic growth continue without major changes in the pattern of energy consumption or a reduction in the costs of exploiting energy resources. There is growing, if somewhat over-stated, concern about the potential for severe strains between Asian economic powers. These concerns, especially in North-east Asia, make nuclear power highly attractive as a major alternative energy source. Japan generates nearly one-third of its electricity from nuclear power, while South Korea gets around 40%.20 In the APEC process, there have been several high-level meetings among member-countries to discuss the impact of increasing demands for various types of energy in the Asia-Pacific.

Peaceful use of nuclear energy may become an important way to resolve the shortage of energy in the region. While Europe has handled civil nuclear energy through the European Atomic Organisation (EURATOM) for forty years, Asia is now in the early stage of thinking about establishing a regional mechanism for nuclear energy cooperation. There have been early initiatives by Japanese and other Asian countries to establish a regional body that might be called 'ASIATOM', which might manage some aspects of the huge increase in energy needed in the region. Since there are already significant areas of cooperation between European and Asian countries in the nuclear area, it will be logical to explore further nuclear energy cooperation at the ASEM level.

The potential applicability of EURATOM to Asia needs to be seen in relation to both nuclear non-proliferation and the development of civilian nuclear power. There are similarities and differences in conditions between the two regions. While EURATOM was established systematically after the Second World War, ASIATOM, once established, will need to develop gradually, in accordance with rapidly changing local conditions.21 In Asia, only North-east Asian countries and a few other Asian states have actively been developing nuclear power-plants; concerns regarding nuclear proliferation therefore remain high, but narrowly focused. Any lessons drawn from the EURATOM model would have to be modified for Asian circumstances. As economic and technical needs alone do not yet justify ASIATOM, better understanding of nuclear safety and non-proliferation, and close cooperation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, could both be promoted at the ASEM level. European experiences such as nuclear waste (spent fuel) management, measures for nuclear safety, and advanced nuclear research and development will be useful for developing nuclear energy cooperation with Asian countries.

A second area of cooperation concerns the security of shipping and freedom of navigation on the high seas. Europe and Asia have an interest in cooperating over this issue because ensuring freedom of navigation is a critical concern for both regions. European countries, especially the UK and France, are keen to improve exchanges with a range of Asian states on protection of open sea-lanes. Europe has a great deal of expertise in cooperating in maritime salvage, search and rescue, and preventing and clearing maritime pollution. Asian countries also have a critical interest in securing free passage, particularly in the Malacca Strait and around the Spratly Islands, to protect their trade routes and natural resources. In particular, Japanese and South Korean industries depend heavily on oil imports from the Middle East through these sea-lanes. Furthermore, the fight against piracy on the high seas, and containing the flow of sea-bound illegal migrants are also issues of concern for both regions.

As well as the major maritime powers (China and Japan), there are an increasing number of medium-size maritime powers in Asia - South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia, for example - that have extensive maritime interests in the sea in both the strategic and economic sense. For these middle-ranking powers, exchanging experiences and views on these issues will be very useful in promoting maritime cooperation between the two regions. Seminars or workshops on free passage in the Malacca Strait, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea could be organised in order to reduce the tension and constitute effective confidence-building measures in the region. The implementation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, and the future of the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, signed by ASEAN countries in December 1995, should also be on the ASEM agenda.

Taking an even broader definition of security, food supply problems can also be seen as critical issues for ASEM to discuss. More than 840 million people in the world today do not have adequate access to food, and the situation may deteriorate as the world population increases.22 While European and East Asians do not face critical food problems, they both have an obligation to the less successful parts of the globe. Some have argued that many Asian states suffer from 'compassion deficit'; a detailed programme of collaboration with Europeans at the ASEM level might help to overcome this perception. Tokyo has already assumed a leading role in humanitarian relief efforts, and many other Asians, as they grow richer, may wish to follow in their footsteps.

Moreover, Europeans and Asians have no reason to be complacent about domestic humanitarian-relief problems. In East Asia, there were major operations for Cambodian refugees, Vietnamese boat people and refugees from Myanmar in the 1970s and onwards. In addition, as future possible conflicts might emerge in the region, whether in Indochina, China or on the Korean Peninsula, humanitarian issues may well require major foreign input. Europeans have also faced challenges of this sort in the Balkans and the Caucasus. States in the two regions have much experience to share and collaborative mechanisms to establish. It is clearly advantageous to consider both early-warning mechanisms and methods of response.23 Various other issues can be identified, including cooperation in fighting the drug trade, international crime and terrorism. But suffice to say that there is a solid range of important security issues that can be usefully addressed at the ASEM level.

How to Think about the United States and ASEM

For all its obvious importance to the security of East Asia and Europe, the United States cannot be a formal part of any security dialogue in ASEM. A core but publicly underplayed motive for ASEM is to keep the US sufficiently concerned about Asia-Europe cooperation that it remains committed to open multilateralism. In trade disputes, Asians and Europeans have good reason to worry about the US propensity to act unilaterally - witness the March 1996 Helms-Burton act, which violates World Trade Organisation rules and extends US domestic legislation to punish foreigners who trade with Cuba or other 'rogue' states. It makes perfect sense for Europeans and Asians to collaborate in order to ensure that the Americans remain honest multilateralists. In a perverse way, it makes sense to have Washington vexed about whether it should be looking mainly to the Pacific or the Atlantic. The answer is obviously that the US can and must do both, but it seems doomed to find that most people in either region question its long-term engagement.

But Europeans and Asians also have reason to treat the US role in security as very different from its economic role. As a result, Euro-Asian calculations about security are much harder to make. It is true that the US also has a tendency to act unilaterally in the security sphere, but then it has better grounds for doing so. Europeans and Asians have had a tendency to free-ride on the US willingness to bear the burdens of maintaining international order. Asians could silently applaud, and Europeans do so more openly, when the United States deterred China in the Taiwan Strait in March 1996, but in the end it was only US carrier-battle groups that could maintain stability.

Asians and Europeans both require a continued US presence in their regions. For Europeans, the need is far less obvious and the balance of responsibility and activism is far more equal than in Asia, where few Asians work closely with the United States as an ally. Japan and South Korea are the exceptions to this pattern. Given this fact, and the reality that East Asia seems more unstable than Europe, there is a case to be made for Europeans and Asians encouraging the US to do more for Asian security. Europeans could help this process by working harder at European security, thereby freeing US forces for Asian action. But, as already suggested, Europeans should also be thinking of ways to assist the US and their Asian allies in Pacific Asia.

Such Euro-Asian discussion of security issues seems obvious and useful enough, albeit difficult to implement in anything but an ad hoc way among like-minded allies. But what of the possibility that Europeans and Asians might wish to have more detailed conversations among themselves about the best way to manage the United States? Could the Asians and Europeans not share their experience? Europeans in particular know how to work with the US in a multilateral security setting.

Needless to say, many Americans would not be pleased with such discussions. Indeed, such fears have led some Americans to view the ASEM process in a very critical light. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor, argued that the ASEM will be impotent without US participation. He cautioned that, without a united Europe and a more organised Asia, there is the risk that the US might become increasingly reluctant to shoulder the burdens of a global power.24

The mixture of petulance and power in Brzezinski's comments, if sustained as ASEM develops, may well encourage both Asia and Europe to deal with the unilateralist tendencies of the United States, in part through ASEM. Nevertheless, discussion about measures to help the US play a more cooperative and genuinely multilateralist role, while well-intentioned, might well trigger the very policies it is meant to prevent. Both Asia and Europe recognise that it would be difficult to resolve their regional crisis without the United States. Washington's continued support will be essential for securing regional stability in both regions. The trick is to suggest to the US that ASEM is not ganging up against it to exclude its influence in both regions. Quite the contrary. As the United States already has a solid presence in the two regions, it needs to be understood that the initiatives for promoting growth and stability in Asia and Europe through ASEM will also be beneficial for the United States.

From ASEM's point of view, therefore, the main concern regarding the US is the possible reduction of US involvement in both regions. In that sense, one of the main challenges for Asians and Europeans is to find ways to sustain the US commitment to the security of Asia and Europe. The most important thing that Europeans can do is to make a greater contribution to their own security, thereby freeing the US to focus more on Asia. Europeans can also engage in Asian security together with the US, and thus show the Americans that they have allies who also see the value in contributing to global security.

The security agenda for ASEM therefore has several implications for the US. There certainly should be a dialogue, perhaps at first at the track-two level in ASEM, about the US security role. But both sides also need to recognise that their main goal must be to retain the United States as a partner in regional and global security. In that sense, some form of regular high-level talks between ASEM and the United States may also be of value. Keeping the US as a genuine partner probably does require some suggestion that Washington cannot push its allies around and set unilateral agendas. But keeping the US as a partner also means that Asians and Europeans need to do more for their own security. This latter objective would be made easier if the Europeans were to join with Washington and like-minded allies in the hard security of Pacific Asia.

Getting Serious about Security Cooperation in ASEM

Global economic openness and global security seem to benefit from realistic action at both the regional and inter-regional level that supports the global systems. 'Open regionalism' is an oxymoron in one sense, but through a system of competitive regional efforts to enhance free trade, regionalism can contribute to a more open global system. Just as the notion of open regionalism has dual meaning, so ASEM has the dual meaning of enhancing openness, and doing so through an implicit constraint on American tendencies to unilateralism.

To achieve these goals, ASEM needs to make progress in economic, political and security terms. Despite its successful start and large scale, it will take a long time before ASEM becomes a fully fledged and effective institution for inter-regional cooperation. To do so, ASEM needs to develop a security agenda. As we have suggested, this agenda can be full and fruitful. Some aspects will be best developed in accordance with 'variable geometry' and not include all ASEM members. Some issues are better discussed at a track-two level, at least initially. Others will be mainly handled through official exchanges of information and opinion, leaving harder policy changes for later. The mix of these options is complex. But in the end, there is a real security agenda that includes both hard and soft security. If Europeans and Asians fail to engage in both the process of security discussion and the implementation of certain policies, then before long, ASEM will be judged to have failed to live up to its promise.


1 See David Camroux and Christian Lechervy, '"Encounter of a Third Kind?": The Inaugural Asia-Europe Meeting of March 1996', The Pacific Review, vol. 9, no. 3, 1996 and Gerald Segal, 'Thinking Strategically About ASEM: The Subsidiarity Question', The Pacific Review, vol. 10, no. 1, 1997.

2 'Lite' powers are reluctant to use military force. The notion is developed in Barry Buzan and Gerald Segal, 'The Rise of "Lite" Powers', World Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 3, Autumn 1996.

3 Simon Nuttall, 'Japan and the European Union: Reluctant Partners', Survival, vol. 38, no. 2, Summer 1996.

4 Michael Leifer, The ASEAN Regional Forum, Adelphi Paper 302 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the IISS, 1996).

5 Jean-Pierre Lehmann, 'Economic Interdependence and Security in Asia Pacific', paper presented at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Asia-Pacific meeting, Wellington, New Zealand, December 1996. More generally on these issues, from a European perspective, see Pierre Jacquet, 'European Integration at a Crossroads', Survival, vol. 38, no. 4, Winter 1996-97.

6 Discussed in Yukio Satoh, 'Policy Co-ordination in Asia Pacific' in Hanns Maull, Gerald Segal and Jusuf Wanandi (eds), Europe in Asia(London: Routledge, forthcoming 1997).

7 The EU's interests were outlined in the EU document, 'New Strategies for Asia', which was approved by the European Council in Essen, December 1994. See also Simon Nuttall, 'The CAEC Task Force', draft paper presented to the Council for Asia-Europe Cooperation (CAEC) plenary in Paris, November 1996. For hard data on the European's growing trade and financial relations with Asia see 'Has Europe Failed in Asia?', The Economist, 2 March 1996, pp. 25-27.

8 Wang Jisi, 'China and Europe' in Maull et al., Europe in Asia.

9 'The Chairman's Statement' of the first ASEM, Bangkok, 2 March 1996.

10 Many Asians would contest the notion of the bicycle theory. They argue that the process alone, even in APEC, will suffice, and the need to produce a 'product' is a Western obsession. This debate is also apparent in ASEM, with some Asians arguing that there is no need to produce concrete results for some time. For the range of debates, see Richard Higgot, 'Keeping Regionalism Open' in Maull et al., Europe in Asia.

11 Kishore Mahbubani, 'The Pacific Impulse', Survival, vol. 37, no. 1, Spring 1995, p. 110.

12 Ten Asian countries - ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea - produced a concept paper which contained the views of Asian countries on ASEM and was submitted to the first ASEM-Senior Officials' Meeting held in Madrid, December 1995.

13 On this point generally, see Gerald Segal, Rethinking the Pacific (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1990).

14 François Godement, Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Hanns Maull and Gerald Segal, 'Pluses and Minuses in Cooperation Between Europe and Asia', International Herald Tribune, 19 November 1996.

15 Marie-France Desjardins, Rethinking Confidence-Building Measures, Adelphi Paper 307 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the IISS, 1996), chapter 1.

16 Peter Jones, 'Maritime Confidence-Building Measures in the Middle East', in Jill R. Junnola (ed.), Maritime Confidence-Building in Regions of Tension, Report No. 21 (Washington DC: The Henry L. Stimson Center, May 1996).

17 Richard E. Darilek, 'East-West Confidence-Building: Defusing the Cold War in Europe', in A Handbook of Confidence-building Measures for Regional Security (Washington DC: The Henry L. Stimson Center, January 1995), pp. 20-23. See also Fumiaki Takahashi, What Role for Europe in Asian Affairs?, Adelphi Paper 276 (London: Brassey's for the IISS, April 1993).

18 Scandinavians - Finland, Sweden, Norway - and Denmark have managed the United Nations Training Centre to provide training courses for peacekeeping-operations personnel, such as military-observer and logistics courses.

19 Mahbubani, 'The Pacific Impulse', p. 110.

20 Kent Calder, Asia's Deadly Triangle (London: Nicholas Brealy, 1996).

21 Tatsujiro Suzuki, 'Lessons from EURATOM for Possible Regional Nuclear Co-operation in the Asia-Pacific Region (ASIATOM)', Policy Paper No. 24 (San Diego, CA: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California at San Diego, August 1996), p. 29-39.

22 'Feeding the World', International Herald Tribune, 13 November 1996, pp. 8-9, and 16 November 1996, pp. 15-16.

23 According to the German Federal Intelligence Bureau's projection, over 6.5 million North Koreans may escape from North Korea in an emergency. See Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 November 1996, p. 6.

24 See Zbigniew Brzezinski, 'Summit of Impotence in Bangkok', Washington Times, 25 February 1996. Also see comments made by Ambassador John Wolf, US Coordinator for APEC, at a press conference, Kuala Lumpur, 19 March 1996, issued by the US Embassy, 21 March 1996.

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