Structures, Shocks and Norm Change: Explaining the Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy

David Capie

Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs, Volume 35, Number 1, April 2013, pp. 1-26 (Article) Published by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies DOI: 10.1353/csa.2013.0004

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Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 35, No. 1 (2013), pp. 1–26 DOI: 10.1355/cs35-1a © 2013 ISEAS ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic

Structures, Shocks and Norm Change: Explaining the Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy
DAVID CAPIE

This article examines why Asia’s multilateral defence diplomacy has been a relative laggard when compared to other forms of institutionalized security dialogue, and what explains its recent rise. It argues that explanations that stress the “catalytic role” of external shocks such as the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) or changes in the distribution of power or threats are underdetermining. Rather, Asia’s new multilateral defence diplomacy reflects strategic emulation on the part of ASEAN elites, who localized ideas initially put forward by outsiders in order to maintain ASEAN’s central place in the regional security architecture. Its rise has also been helped by the changing role of militaries in some East Asian states and its rapid institutionalization owes much to historical contingency, in particular the interests of two influential ASEAN Chairs in Indonesia and Vietnam. The final part of the article briefly assesses the future prospects and influence of regional multilateral defence diplomacy. Keywords: defence diplomacy, ASEAN, ADMM, Shangri-La Dialogue, norms, constitutive localization.

Asia’s multilateral defence diplomacy is an increasingly important aspect of regional politics and a burgeoning area of interest for scholarship. The creation of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in 2002,

David Capie is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. 

These arrangements also have a track two multilateral partner — the Network of ASEAN Defence and Security Institutes (NADI).8 In particular. In 2012 a special issue of the journal Asian Security examined Southeast Asia’s defence diplomacy. and what explains its rapid rise? The article is divided into three parts. Rather.4 and there is a growing body of research looking at bilateral defence diplomacy5 and the connection between bilateral and multilateral arrangements. the explanation advanced here focuses on agents and changing norms around multilateral defence cooperation.3 The origins and function of the SLD have been the subject of close academic scrutiny.1 These processes are increasingly attracting interest from analysts.2 Scholars have asked whether there is a “Southeast Asian model” of defence cooperation that might be emulated or referenced by others. At its heart are two questions: why was multilateral defence diplomacy so late to arrive in Asia. although the body of work remains comparatively small alongside the attention lavished on the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).7 This article seeks to build on the existing literature by outlining some ways in which Asia’s defence diplomacy can inform and challenge contemporary debates in international relations theory. I argue that the institutional innovation . I argue that explanations that stress the “catalytic role” of external shocks such as the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) or changes in the distribution of power or threats (for example. The first section briefly defines defence diplomacy and outlines the general trajectory of East Asia’s defence and military diplomacy in recent decades.6 To date. the rise of China) are underdetermining. David Capie the inauguration of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) in May 2006 and the arrival of the ADMM-Plus process in October 2010 has seen the establishment of a major new stream of regional dialogue and diplomacy. however. a parallel arrangement to the long-running and influential ASEAN-ISIS. and what explains its recent rise. its origins and purpose than it has been with considering recent developments in the context of theoretical debates. The second part explores why defence diplomacy has been a relative laggard when compared to other forms of institutionalized security dialogue. most of this work has been more concerned with describing the evolution of defence diplomacy in the region. including China’s activities in the region and the contribution of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). Using the lens of constitutive localization. it looks at the rise of multilateral defence diplomacy against the backdrop of the scholarship concerning norm change and institutional innovation.

build and maintain trust and assist in the development of democratically accountable armed forces. The belief was that by “establishing relationships of trust and mutual confidence among former rival militaries. confidence could be built. trade and development levers. who adopted and adapted ideas initially put forward by outsiders in order to maintain ASEAN’s central place in the regional security architecture.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy  that has occurred since 2006 reflects a strategic calculation on the part of ASEAN elites. defence or military diplomacy seems to have grown in prominence in the last decade. generalized standards could be achieved with regard to the interoperability of militaries and a broader democratization of civil-military relations could take part in what was once the Soviet Bloc”. the idea emerged in post-Cold War Europe. Its rise has been helped by the changing role of militaries in some East Asian states and its rapid institutionalization owes much to historical contingency. as a distinct concept. thereby making a significant contribution to conflict prevention and resolution. non-proliferation policies.” It said “we require armed forces which can operate in support of diplomacy alongside economic. Britain’s Ministry of Defence described the concept as involving the use of military forces “to dispel hostility.9 What then does defence diplomacy mean in Asia? Like many expressions in the security studies lexicon.10 Although the idea that the armed forces have a role beyond the direct use of violence is not new. One study of the vocabulary of regional security published in 2008 includes numerous terms for diplomacy and engagement but notably omits defence or military diplomacy. defence diplomacy’s origins are often traced to the 1998 British Strategic Defence Review.12 As a particular policy position.13 The British approach included three broad sets of activities: arms control. and confidence and security- . to strengthen security and avert conflict”. The final part of the article offers a brief assessment of the future prospects and influence of regional multilateral defence diplomacy. in particular the interests of two influential ASEAN Chairs in Indonesia and Vietnam. Anthony Forster describes military and defence diplomacy as “the non-operational use of the armed forces by the government in order to pursue foreign and defence policy objectives”. Defining Defence Diplomacy Defence diplomacy is a relatively new arrival in the lexicon of Asia- Pacific security.11 According to Stephen Blank. the origin and meaning of the term are contested.

likening defence diplomacy to preventive diplomacy.17 In her analysis of China’s “military diplomacy”. instruments that were designed to encourage stability. After decades in which regional states had preferred to use the term “defence cooperation”. particularly in Russia. and military and civilian personnel at all levels.16 The New Zealand Defence Force embraced the term.18 In terms of specific activities. political. not as a freestanding set of military initiatives conducted by military professionals for explicitly military reasons”. as well as visits and interactions between ministers. Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said the objectives of Singapore’s defence diplomacy were “to develop positive and mutually beneficial relationships with friendly countries and armed forces. The assumption is that through “intensive and sustained military engagement […] shared knowledge and mutual trust will over a period of time enhance peace and stability”. through bilateral assistance and cooperation programmes. education and training programmes were regarded as particularly important. the import and export of military weapons and equipment. “the philosophy underpinning British defence diplomacy is a cosmopolitan liberal vision of the promotion of western principles and values”.19 Looking at India’s defence diplomacy. David Capie building measures. the phrase “defence diplomacy” suddenly became commonplace. PLA interactions with foreign militaries are seen as a “political undertaking using military means for strategic reasons. a number of states in the Asia Pacific began to use the concept in their own national security policies. build and maintain trust”. [and] to contribute to a stable and cooperative regional environment and international order”. professional military education exchanges. Gunness lists “high-level strategic security dialogues. as well as other assistance programmes aimed at relationships beyond Europe.15 Not long after the British Review was released. Saroj Bishoyi stresses . Kristen Gunness argues that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is “expected to support the larger foreign. Its aim is to dispel hostility. military functional exchanges. economic and security agenda set forth by the leadership of the Party/State”. along with the use of ship and aircraft visits. and describing it as “all the varied activities undertaken … to promote peace and security through constructive engagement and confidence building. diplomatic.14 Within these broad areas. shortterm advisory teams. According to one analyst. and participation in peacekeeping operations”. In a 2006 statement to Singapore’s Parliament.

counterWMD proliferation efforts also became an important element of Western defence diplomacy.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy  the role of education and training “in areas such as defence management. Asian states quickly picked up on the language of defence diplomacy. joint combined exchange training of special forces. the Philippines and Australia. 24 East Asian states “pruned” away the aspects of the practice that they found incompatible with the character of regional diplomacy. alliances require “a significant level of person-to-person interaction. South Korea. In the 1999 UK Defence White Paper. Not surprisingly. but kept the parts they found useful.22 After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. foreign military financing in the form of grants and loans. in particular America’s alliances with Japan. However. some of the closest defence diplomacy is based around the prevailing security structures of the region. consulted and shared strategic perceptions for decades. however. Military and defence officials from across the region have met. they did not embrace it without reservations. particularly at the more senior . focusing primarily on building trust and eschewing any role in the internal affairs of participant states.21 Clearly then. sending a signal of its “benign” intentions.20 Pankaj Jha emphasizes the importance of India’s military exercises with countries in Southeast Asia as an assurance strategy. 23 The East Asian use of the term is. [and] military sales”. much in the way that ASEAN has borrowed and adapted earlier European ideas such as common security. but the same process could also be described as the localization of an imported concept. Thailand. in practice it has a long history in Asia. The British approach was grounded in a set of broader goals around the promotion of democratic civil-military relations. The Patterns of Asian Defence Diplomacy If the term “defence diplomacy” is increasingly common and evolving in meaning. defence diplomacy was included in a chapter called “Building a better world” associating it with the aims of the so-called “ethical foreign policy”. It has none of liberal trappings that elevate the importance of promoting democratic control of armed forces.S. Tan and Singh have framed this as a distinction between “transformational” European and more “pragmatic” Asian diplomacy. As Atkinson notes: the U. civil-military relations and military justice” as well as a “wide range of military-to-military contacts with other states. much more limited.

For example.29 Indonesia and the Philippines signed their own bilateral agree­ . made up of diplomats.-Japan defence relationship. training and educational exchanges. for example. senior American military officials based in Japan and the Japan Defence Agency. the two countries committed to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation. exchanges of programmes by their respective command and staff colleagues. including “intelligence exchanges.–Japan alliance.S. Personnel of all levels interact on a daily basis within established institutionalized security alliances. along with foreign and defence ministers from Australia.S. which annually brought together senior military officers. and allied military and political leaders.S.”25 Indeed. In the 1970s. as well as continued diplomatic exchanges between the U.-Thai defence relations include regular consultations and more than 40 combined military exercises a year.S. coordinated naval patrol. under agreements that date back to 1959.27 Yet if the U. and joint disaster response. “tens of thousands” of Thai military officers have taken part in U. joint disaster relief operations. bilateral defence interactions also have a history among non-allies. many of these alliances include formal provisions that establish institutions through which defence officials and military officers meet to discuss security issues.S. Malaysia and Thailand have maintained two committees that discuss defence policy and counter-insurgency operations along their shared border. Its primary purpose was to discuss contingencies involving a possible attack on Japan and conflict elsewhere in the region.26 U. New Zealand and the United States. The 1951 Australia.S. and a Joint Border Committee Office (JBCO) provided a vehicle for broader security cooperation based on mutual concerns over Vietnamese expansionism. David Capie ranks. security and other relevant officials. alliances have long provided vehicles for dialogue and exchange. training and exercises”. According to one report. In the case of the U. reciprocal visits of defence. established the ANZUS Council. but it also addressed activities and consultations regarding the U. Malaysia and Indonesia maintain a similar arrangement with a joint border committee created in 1972 and augmented with a 1984 security agreement. 28 Following a 2008 meeting between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. they held joint exercises targeted against communist insurgents. New Zealand and the United States (ANZUS) Treaty. high level defence talks date back to 1976 when a Sub-Committee on Defence Cooperation (SDC) was established.

manage and monitor defence cooperation between the two countries”. and gain an understanding of each . at the second WPNS in 1992. although these have often been overlooked in analyses of defence diplomacy. and the possible use of each other’s facilities for logistics and repairs. and search and rescue. where service chiefs would receive briefings on a range of common challenges and issues. These produced papers and non-binding recommendations to be considered by the chiefs at the subsequent symposium. but over time.32 Held every two years.31 Singapore and Indonesia have agreements that allow the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to train in Indonesian waters. which has taken place since 1988. This created a Joint Defence and Security Cooperation Committee that met annually to “implement. the WPNS agenda has evolved along with its membership. It now encourages “personnel exchanges. nor on the maritime confidence and security building measures occupying the minds of those concerned with second track diplomacy”. attendance at overseas Staff Colleges. and senior officer visits”. the chiefs agreed to establish a work programme with a series of workshops involving mid-level officers. the range of activities it undertakes has also expanded. Its initial focus was on “common issues affecting naval professionals and not on political issues. and make use of helicopter training facilities and an air-combat range in Sumatra. WPNS was originally structured around symposia. As one Australian analysis concludes: Collaboration through multilateral activities including disaster relief. Alongside these numerous bilateral defence interactions.30 Other examples from inside ASEAN include a Malaysia–Philippines defence agreement that provides for regular combined military exercises. study visits and tours (including visits by naval units). It also provides an opportunity for personnel to interact. provides an understanding of how each navy thinks and operates. Its goal is to “have the leaders of regional navies meet for frank and open discussions to promote mutual understanding and to discuss common challenges”.33 As WPNS members have grown more accustomed to interacting. exchanges have also allowed service personnel to spend time on one another’s ships at sea. some ASEAN states were also regular and active participants in working level multilateral activities. One of the most durable examples is the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS).The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy  ment for enhancing defence cooperation in 1997. As WPNS has progressed. However. exchange ideas and professional expertise. and of their capabilities. exchanges of military information.

PAMS is the “largest gathering of senior army/security forces officers in the Asia-Pacific region”. There was. which has been meeting annually for more than three decades. WPNS and PAMS are mostly about building habits of dialogue. albeit often in partnership with an Asian state. PAMS and other similar arrange­ ments resemble the regional multilateral institutions that have attracted so much attention when foreign ministers and heads of government are involved. Chile. Malaysia. allies as well as non-like-minded states like China. Thailand and the United States) to twenty-nine by 2010. Singapore.S. Formed in 1978. involving U. They have modest intersessional work programmes that feed practical suggestions for defence cooperation to service chiefs for consideration by their respective militaries and governments. in formal gatherings such as this plenary session. Where they differ from other Asian security institutions is that they are managed and organized not by ASEAN. for example. Japan. either within ASEAN or on . until very recently East Asia lacked any comparable interactions at the highest levels. other’s cultures.34 David Capie A second long-standing example of working level multilateral defence diplomacy is the Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS). Dialogue is the necessary first step. Like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). no equivalent of the annual NATO Defence Ministers’ Meeting or the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas. As one senior participant told the 2010 WPNS in Sydney: the value of building relationships and trust begins here. but by the United States military. These working level multilateral arrangements notwithstanding. Philippines. PAMS has been described as “a forum for senior-level officers from the Asia Pacific’s regional ground forces to exchange views and ideas. It has expanded from an original membership of nine states (China.35 In many respects the WPNS. South Korea. and our ability to talk to each other here or in other settings because of the relationships we build today will put us in a better position tomorrow to work together to overcome some of the challenges [we face]. in the individual meetings and informal chats outside of these doors.36 They are also inclusive arrangements. stressing the importance of informality. and relationship building. but just as importantly. It provides opportunities for future leaders of regional armies to develop strong interpersonal relationships”.

twenty-eight countries were represented. with hundreds of officials taking part along with the largest number of ministers yet. From Non-official to Official Multilateralism The idea for an annual Asian Security Summit was developed by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in 2000. the “Shangri-La Dialogue”.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy  the wider regional stage. calls to transform it into a formal inter-governmental meeting were consistently rejected.38 Despite this. It showed that many regional defence ministers saw value in meeting . multilateral framework in which defence ministers and senior military officials interact. in prac­ tice. began to change in 2002 with the creation of the Asian Security Summit. Its inspiration was the annual Munich Conference. it received a cool reception from some regional states. notably China. Myanmar and Vietnam. it represents an interesting accommodation between multi­ lateralism and bilateralism. has been the chance to arrange bilateral meetings during the SLD. the SLD had an important demonstration effect in terms of encouraging other forms of multilateral defence cooperation. there were also trilateral and mini-lateral interactions occurring on the sidelines of the SLD. While the SLD had strong supporters in Australia.37 Singapore used the 2010 Dialogue to conclude a defence cooperation agreement with Australia. SLD is not a formal inter-governmental summit and. defence ministers from China. but these remained informal and not part of the main meeting. the SLD works as a loose. The inaugural meeting was held at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel in mid-2002. which did not send ministerial representation. which brings together European and American policy-makers and strategic thinkers. Singapore and the United States. By 2008 and 2009. However. This. More valuable for participants than any multilateral or trilateral interactions. From one perspective. for the first time. the SLD grew steadily and by the time it celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011. or as it is better known. Twenty-two countries were repre­ sented. however. Australia. organized more than twenty bilateral meetings with other regional military and defence officials on the sidelines of the 2009 SLD. Japan. with eleven defence ministers attending. however. for example. But although the SLD quickly became established as a defence ministers meeting “by default”. including. The main multilateral element is a series of lunches and dinners for ministers.

Alongside ministerial and senior official’s meetings. ASEAN’s Regional Defence Diplomacy The origins of ADMM can be traced back to 2004. ministers began to consider contacts with other regional states. an East Asian Security Outlook Seminar (EASO) and a Chiefs of Defence Force Informal Meeting (ACDFIM). ADMM-Plus is only beginning to get established. Japan. ADMM convened for the first time in May 2006 and has slowly become more institutionalized.40 The third ADMM agreed a set of principles for an expanded membership in a paper drafted by Singapore and Thailand. Russia and the United States.39 Soon after the first ADMM in Kuala Lumpur. ASEAN militaries conducted their first multilateral table top exercise. New Zealand. The growth of interactions among ASEAN defence officials has been impressive. Australia. Three years after the first meeting in Hanoi. a Military Intelligence Informal Meeting (AMIIM). In 2011.42 The eighteen ministers will meet for only the second time in Brunei in August 2013. The idea was initially broached as part of the proposal for an ASEAN Security Community (ASC). The 2007 ADMM agreed on a concept paper that set out the modalities and principles in the event that a wider meeting with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners might be created.10 David Capie as a group and it helped pave the way for the creation of additional multilateral mechanisms. a symbolically important step. laid out in the 2003 Bali Concord II declaration. There is also a growing programme of practical activities. with ASEAN defence ministers joining their counterparts from China. including an inter-governmental ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM). in 2011 alone ministers or senior officials met almost once a month. a glance at the current ADMM calendar reveals an ASEAN Military Operations Informal Meeting (AMOIM).41 This final step towards the establishment of a regional defence diplomacy architecture came to fruition in October 2010 when the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) was inaugurated at a meeting in Hanoi. when the ASEAN Secretariat was directed by a special ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting to draw up a concept paper for an ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting. Defence ministers now meet regularly and are supported by their own senior officials process (ADSOM). As Singh and Tan note. Five Experts’ Working . South Korea. India. A busy ADMM-Plus Work Plan has begun but it remains focused on less sensitive. non-traditional security issues.

rather than multilateral defence relations. than it does for the second. Notwithstanding.44 What made bilateralism the preferred arrangement for high-level defence diplomacy in Southeast Asia? There are both instrumental and normative explanations. Explaining Late Multilateral Defence Diplomacy in Asia This pattern immediately presents two related puzzles for analysts. There is widespread acceptance that the prevailing norm among ASEAN states for the group’s first few decades was to maintain bilateral (or at best trilateral). what caused the deeply established norm in favour of bilateral defence cooperation to break down in the way that it did? The existing literature provides much clearer answers to the first question. First. Southeast Asian states lacked the “glue” of shared threat perceptions that had propelled collective defence in Cold War Europe.”43 Various proposals in the late 1980s and 1990s. but it took as long as 2006 for ASEAN defence ministers to assemble in their own forum? Why did it take sixteen years after the creation of the ARF before a parallel region-wide defence ministers meeting could meet? Second. whether for a “defence community”. or a fully-fledged defence ministers’ summit. Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak summed up the prevailing sentiment: “ASEAN military forces are familiar with each other on a bilateral basis. regional multi­ lateral exercises. that’s good enough. Indonesia. were all rejected. military medicine. the creation of a region-wide grouping of defence ministers represents an important innovation in Asia’s security architecture and a break with the past preference for bilateralism. the limited contact between ministers to date and the focus on non-traditional security issues. why were foreign ministers from Asia-Pacific countries able to meet to discuss security issues in the ARF since 1994. address peacekeeping operations. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy 11 Groups (EWGs). maritime security. and counter-terrorism. A number of table top exercises have been held and in 2013 there will be three field training exercises. Most have met two or three times since 2010. 28 September–1 October 2013) and counter-terrorism (Sentul. each co-chaired by one ASEAN and one nonASEAN member. maritime security (Sydney. 17–20 June 2013).45 Looking at the balance of threats. addressing HADR and Military Medicine (Brunei. To me. 9–13 September 2013). During . at least at the highest levels.

Unresolved territorial disputes between Malaysia and Singapore. In most cases. and Malaysia and the Philippines. The second focuses more . and its collective aspiration for neutrality on the other”. This is surprising. Finally. defence ties with neighbours offered only marginal practical benefits compared to engaging with outside Great Powers such as the United States. in particular the influence of material factors. Thai–Malay defence cooperation stumbled over thorny issues such as the “hot pursuit” of insurgents by Malaysian forces. including Indonesia.50 Broadly speaking. Singapore and Malaysia tensions flared periodically over issues as diverse as water and Singapore’s contacts with Israel. multilateral defence cooperation also appeared to have limited utility.46 Second. were more preoccupied with state-making and internal security issues than the region’s changing security order. There were also challenges in terms of capacity and inter-operability between regional militaries. the theoretical literature takes two approaches to explaining the rise of multilateral institutions. But the strong preference for bilateralism was not simply about efficiency or the nature of threat perceptions. others about external aggression from the Soviet Union or Vietnam. such as changes in the balance of power.47 These deeply held “cognitive priors” undermined collective defence pacts such as the SouthEast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and helped ensure that no “Asian NATO” appeared in the 1950s or 1960s.48 He argues that the “norm against multilateral military cooperation … has clearly survived into the post-Cold War period”. aggravated relations from time to time. Acharya also outlines normative reasons why multilateral defence cooperation was considered illegitimate. suspicion and mistrust characterized several bilateral relationships. new processes like ADMM and ADMM-Plus “stand at odds with the region’s express rejection of collective defence and collective security on the one hand.12 David Capie the Cold War. one stressing the role of structure. there is less work exploring how this strong norm was eroded so quickly with the rapid rise of multilateral inter-governmental defence dialogues between 2006 and 2010. Many. because as See Seng Tan notes.49 While there is a large literature explaining why ASEAN maintained its strong preference for bilateralism. some were more concerned about subversion and insurgency. tracing the origins of the norm to postwar ideas that saw regional pacts associated with colonialism and the interference of external powers.

remains influential. a modified approach emphasizing the important role of external shocks. advanced surface vessels and submarines “arguably led ASEAN countries to reassess their position on intraregional defence cooperation and to gradually accept the notion that elevating the profile and scope of defence diplomacy [was] becoming a strategic imperative.51 Recent work has stressed the indeterminacy of wholly power-based approaches.54 A small number of analysts have begun to explore the puzzle of Asia’s late defence multilateralism in the context of theories of institutional change.” Third — and related to this — “the growing number of multilateral defence diplomatic activities under the auspices of the ARF between ASEAN and its regional partners concerning a wide range of security issues can be attributed to the concern with China’s rise and the ensuing potential return of great-power politics in the Asia-Pacific. such as war or depression call into question the existing rules of the game and facilitate the rise of new institutions. that “within the ASEAN context. The proliferation of fourth-generation fighter aircraft. Alarm bells about the potential for an arms race to develop in Southeast Asia and the proliferation of advanced weapons systems were regularly sounded throughout the early and mid-1990s. In his detailed survey of Southeast Asia’s evolving defence diplomacy. 53 This asserts that critical junctures. Yet when calls were made for defence ministers to meet officially in a multilateral .”55 Second. that it was “related to the increasingly worrying trend in regional arms development”. a focus on the changing balance of power or external shocks like the AFC seems to be under-determining when it comes to explaining institutional innovation in the field of defence diplomacy. multilateral defence diplomacy initially rose as a way to recover from the regional anxiety caused by the 1996 Asian financial crisis.”56 While these worries were all doubtless important topics on the minds of ASEAN decision makers during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Evan Laksmana argues that the recent rise of defence diplomacy can be explained by three developments.52 However.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy 13 on the role of agents and emphasizes the importance of norms and ideas. showing how they are unable to account for the particular trajectory of post-Cold War security multilateralism in the region.57 Concerns about China’s rising power and fears of a confrontation with the United States were felt in the mid-1990s (the 1996 Cross-Straits crisis for example) and again in the early part of the Bush administration (the 2001 EP-3 incident). First.

59 The primary effect of the AFC as far as regional militaries were concerned was to see their budgets slashed and modernization programmes delayed. the initial responses in ASEAN were to pursue bilateral or trilateral counter-terrorism cooperation. a focus on structural factors or external shocks also does not explain why it was even necessary to create a distinct track of defence diplomacy.60 In the aftermath of the AFC. This scholarship divides between so-called cosmopolitan approaches which emphasize the role of norm exporting actors (often in developed Western states) and explanations which focus on the way norm targets adapt and revise norms to make them congruent with established local traditions or “cognitive priors”. but proposals for multilateral defence interactions remained unwelcome. an alternative approach is to focus on the role of agents. they were consistently dismissed. or the engagement of a rising China could have been handled exclusively within existing arrangements such as the ARF.14 David Capie context. challenged and adapted by a range of actors. ASEAN leaders wrestled with revising the group’s norm of non-intervention. Unlike structural explanations that see rapid change brought about through the catalytic role of shocks. If structural explanations provide a less than adequate guide to institutional innovation in defence diplomacy.61 Even after another external shock — the 9/11 attacks — that might have been expected to lead to closer multilateral defence ties. Brendan Taylor argues the financial crisis was one of the main reasons holding back multilateral defence diplomacy in the region. in his insightful assessment of Sino-Australian defence diplomacy. constitutive localization sees norm change as an incremental . Indeed. and stepped up efforts to build an East Asian financial architecture (including through the creation of the ASEAN Plus Three process). as late as 2002 a suggestion by the head of the Japan Defence Agency to convert the SLD into an Asian Defence Ministers’ Meeting was blocked by ASEAN. For example. and examine how new ideas and norms are diffused. Concerns about arms control.58 Nor is it clear why the AFC worked as “an initial catalyst” to provide a rationale for closer defence dialogues. the development of confidence building measures.62 Finally.63 The most influential of these latter accounts — constitutive localization — argues that a norm is more likely to be modified and localized when it has the support of influential “insider proponents” and where it can be made compatible with local normative traditions.

that they would “prefer the PLA not to be these meetings”.S. few analyses direct attention to the primary participants in defence diplomacy dialogues. It builds on the work of historical institutionalists. who argue that pre-existing choices shape the design and formation of new institutions.–Japan relations. namely military officers and defence officials.68 Canada was hardly unique in this respect. The contribution of civil society groups and track two networks are pointed to as important in encouraging the development of a broader security agenda that looks at non-traditional as well as traditional security issues. Path Dependence and Norm Change Discussions about the rise of defence diplomacy do make reference to the role of agents in shaping the region’s security agenda. 67 In U.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy 15 and evolutionary process. When defence officials began attending ARF meetings in the late 1990s. Asian militaries did not meet multilaterally in an inclusive. military. As one survey of regional institutions in Asia notes. I argue one reason for their late involvement in multilateral diplomacy lies in the identity of regional militaries and defence institutions and in the way these groups have historically seen themselves. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) officials informally commented to their counterparts. Bureaucratic politics also prevented Canada from participating in the SLD until 2008. militaries were inward-looking institutions. One Philippines official sums it up simply: “ADMM and ADMM-Plus were slow to develop because defense ministries of ASEAN countries were simply the last ministries to engage in direct dialogue with one another. because “the Canadian foreign ministry didn’t want the defence ministry stealing the limelight from them” in terms of taking on a more prominent role in advancing Canada’s engagement with Asia. dialogue-focused forum because they saw their primary role not to discuss political issues. surprisingly.”66 This self-perception on the part of regional armed forces and defence officials was often exacerbated by bureaucratic rivalries.69 . but to manage violence.S.64 Agents. whose primary security role was to defend the nation from internal as well as external threats. In many important cases.65 But. “foreign ministries have jealously guarded their prerogatives at multilateral meetings”. the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs long objected to closer ties between the Japan Self- Defence Forces and the U.

72 This is not to say that traditional tasks such as war-fighting have become irrelevant. They unfolded as a number of external actors were challenging the norm around bilateral defence cooperation by proposing the gradual inclusion of defence officials within ARF processes. Malaysia in 1997. salient. have begun to embrace a range of new non-traditional roles and functions.74 Further. including reducing their role in domestic politics and internal security. Second.76 Change within regional militaries was of course highly uneven and is in itself insufficient to explain the creation of institutions. reflecting broader socio-political influences.77 The first meeting of defence officials in the ARF context took place on the sidelines of an ARF Senior Officials Meeting (ARF SOM) at Langkawi. not less.16 David Capie Since the end of the Cold War. Gary Hogan notes that the new generation of TNI’s leaders are “more sophisticated. 71 These problems are by their nature difficult for states to respond to unilaterally and provide an incentive for cooperation.79 But the event passed without incident and another small step came .78 The Malaysian foreign ministry was “very dubious” about including defence officials and although the only meeting was an informal lunch. but in most cases they are now augmented with a wide range of other functional responsibilities. First. the Malaysian chair even refused to allow any kind of agenda for discussion. and countering piracy and transnational crime. leaving it with occasional missions in disaster-relief. however. the focus of regional militaries has changed in several respects. large-scale communal conflict and anti-separatist campaigns”. Marcus Mietzner argues that the TNI “has lost much of its internal security role to the police. many regional militaries have also taken important steps towards professionalization in the last decade. Indeed. 75 Thomas Bickford’s analysis of the PLA similarly notes the arrival of a new generation of better-educated leaders. including humanitarian and disaster relief. But these changes gave armed forces and defence officials a greater incentive to engage with one another and to seek a place in the growing number of regional multilateral security dialogues. the development of its own group of international experts and a more outward looking focus. armed forces. and conscious of the wider implications of military actions for Indonesia’s international image and reputation”. in some states they have become more. worldly.70 Foremost among these new roles was dealing with so-called “transnational” issues. 73 For example.

The SLD showed that there was a demand for high-level defence interactions in the region. Donald Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. they offered wary participants assurance that they would operate on the basis of established ASEAN norms. an annual ASEAN Regional Forum Security Policy Conference (ASPC) bringing together defence officials at the level of vice-minister. Because all these early encounters took place in the context of the ARF.S. China proposed another defence meeting. including Paul Wolfowitz. A key attraction of the initial dialogues was the participation of senior U. this process was augmented by an ARF Defence Officials Dialogue (DOD). as participants became more familiar with the process and more comfortable with the broader pattern of multilateral interactions. They could be sure that the focus would be solely on dialogue. defence officials were invited to meet informally on the sidelines of the ARF Inter-sessional Group on Confidence Building Measures (ISG-CBM). Chinese MOFA officials initially expressed reservations about PLA involvement in ARF activities. This slowly began to change. the arrival of the SLD provided an additional “push” factor. reflecting Beijing’s growing comfort in participating in all forms of multi­ lateralism. including one meeting held back-to-back with the annual ARF Foreign Ministers meeting. In 2002. defence officials and military officers. In 2001.82 As one analyst has noted.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy 17 later the same year when the heads of defence universities met under the auspices of the ARF. secretary of defence provided a practical incentive for regional states to send their own high-ranking delegations. with meetings held several times a year. it went from “being hesitant.S. 81 In 2004.80 According to one participant. If the norm against high-level multilateral defence interactions began to be challenged incrementally after 1997. but Beijing soon changed to be more proactive and innovative in regional defence dialogues. only a small number of countries were active and most representatives were “largely passive”. and the “star power” of the U.83 But although the SLD was highly valued by some Southeast Asian states (in particular Singapore) it also represented a challenge . According to one participant in these early encounters. not intrusive or constraining confidence-building measures. the SLD “certainly undercut the flawed assumption that the region [was] not ready for a ministerial-level defense forum”. to playing a lead role with proposals and wanting to chair”. China’s attitude to the inclusion of defence officials is one example.

90 .18 David Capie to ASEAN and its “driver’s seat” role in regional cooperation. One regional defence official recalls that in conversations with ASEAN counterparts in 2008 the consensus was that the realization of a broader regional defence ministers meeting was still some way off. The SLD after all was organized by “outsiders” — a European thinktank. Vietnam was seeking to play a larger role on the regional and global stage.89 Vietnamese Deputy Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh described the creation of ADMM-Plus as the “highlight” of Vietnam’s time in the chair. however. if these push and pull factors provided incentives for greater defence interactions. 87 Indonesia’s time in the Chair in 2003–04 was critical in providing a spur for greater multilateral defence cooperation.88 Vietnam’s time in the Chair in 2010 also hastened the creation of ADMM-Plus. both “reaffirms” ASEAN’s centrality and also pointedly declares that ADMM-Plus is “the highest ministerial defence and security consultative and cooperative mechanism for regional security issues among the ASEAN member states and the eight ‘Plus’ countries”. in particular the work of Rizal Sukma.84 Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s claim that SLD was the “pre-eminent defence and security dialogue in the AsiaPacific region” pointed to a real risk that ASEAN and the ARF could become marginalized. the Executive Director of the Jakarta Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been well documented. was part of a strategy to retain control over what was becoming an increasingly vibrant aspect of regional diplomacy. The role of key individuals in advancing this process.86 Yet. in particular with its tabling of ambitious proposals for a regional peacekeeping force and an ASEAN Security Community. It is no accident that the Joint Statement issued to mark the founding of ADMM-Plus in October 2010. something that led to some “grumblings” in the region. the rapid institutionalization of defence diplomacy also owes much to historical contingency and in particular the influential role of two ASEAN Chairs: Indonesia and Vietnam. 85 ASEAN’s decision to convene an inter-governmental defence diplomacy process through ADMM and then ADMM-Plus. As ASEAN Chair in 2010. including serving as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It was determined to put its mark on ASEAN and pushed more hesitant ASEAN members to agree that a regional defence ministers meeting should be hosted in Hanoi.

Second. The erosion of the norm favouring bilateral defence cooperation and the creation of new defence diplomacy arrangements can best be explained by looking at the way in which new ideas were proposed by outsiders. shaped in important ways by Southeast Asia’s pre-existing institutions. The SLD was conceived and driven by the Londonbased IISS. Much of the initial impetus for multilateral defence interactions came from outside ASEAN: the initial enthusiasm for the inclusion of defence officials in ARF dialogues was suggested by ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners.91 However. the norm has not been completely displaced. Asia’s multilateral defence diplomacy can be seen as an incremental process. the emergence of multilateral defence diplomacy to date owes much to incrementalism and path-dependency. . and there is support for practical collaboration between militaries on a range of non- traditional issues and even for the first time on shared approaches to defence industry within ASEAN. demanding a response from local elites in the form of ADMM and ADMM-Plus. Despite a stated desire to focus on practical outcomes. there is little sign that ASEAN states are interested in forming any kind of multilateral collective defence pact.The Late Rise of Asia’s Defence Diplomacy 19 Incrementalism and the Future of Defence Diplomacy This analysis suggests that rather than being propelled by a series of dramatic external shocks or changes in the balance of power or threats. Multilateral dialogues have become widely accepted. These developments found local supporters in the form of changing regional defence establishments that increasingly saw themselves as having an external role and a new range of non-operational functions. and picked up and adapted by local agents. progress in the work programme is likely to be slow. What does the above analysis suggest about the future of Asia’s defence diplomacy? First. it is important not to overstate the change that has occurred. But they also challenged the norm of ASEAN centrality. and is likely to continue to evolve in much the same way. Its strongest supporters included the United States and Australia. who were at first the most active participants in the ARF defence track activities. creating a de facto ministerial meeting “by default”. ADMM-Plus ministers will meet for only the second time in Brunei in August 2013 and after that will still only meet in the ASEAN+8 format every second year. Although the strong preference for defence bilateralism has been significantly modified in the last decade.

Those ASEAN members that did not get to co-chair a group when these roles were first distributed in Hanoi in 2010 are now seeking to do so. something that might ultimately see the Association sidelined. Indeed. The first ADMM-Plus exercise scheduled for Brunei in June 2013 will incorporate a military medicine component into a broader disaster response scenario. As new chairs take over in 2014 it seems likely that some groups will lose momentum. in part because the ERW issue is seen to be a concern primarily for Vietnam. But to date. In July 2012 the ARF Foreign Ministers did agree to drop the one Defence Officials Dialogue (DOD) meeting that had been held back-to-back annually with the ARF Ministerial. especially its focus on non-traditional security issues such as HADR.93 . a more likely scenario is to see increasing levels of cross-pollination and joint activities between the different working groups. In the lead up to the 7th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in May 2013. The ADMMPlus agenda. the analysis here suggests there is unlikely to be a “neater” defence diplomacy architecture any time soon. but this is unlikely to signal any broader consolidation. Laos and Cambodia. or that they will be able to make rapid progress on initiatives such as an Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) agreement. It is unclear how much support there is for this across ASEAN. for example. a certain level of incoherence suits ASEAN as it prevents the concentration of power in the hands of one or more of its Dialogue Partners. The SLD continues to meet and discuss many of the same issues. In 2013. Finally. increasingly overlaps with the work of ARF intersessionals. There is also little prospect for radical change in the kind of issues that feature on the regional defence diplomacy agenda. for example.20 David Capie This will not be helped by changes in EWG leadership. as one analyst argues. the potential for overlap between military medicine and HADR. Vietnam (with the support of Cambodia and Laos) proposed the formation of a new EWG looking at Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). both the ARF and ADMM-Plus will hold their own disaster relief exercises. There seems less chance still that ADMM or ADMM-Plus will move to tackle hard or “traditional” security issues in the near term.92 Competing national interests stand in the way of better coordination and consolidation. Rather. there has been no agreement about how the respective processes can avoid duplication and make a distinct contribution. Some synergies are already evident.

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op. Community and Democracy in Southeast Asia”. According to some reports. cable from U. Vietnam initially supported an ASEAN+10 membership for the ADMM-Plus. 279.. cit. 1999). Keohane and Celeste A. Tan “‘Walking Their Talk’?”. embassy Hanoi. n. 240. cit. Donald K. Vietnam News. “Important Milestone in ASEAN Defence Ties”. in Imperfect Unions: Security Institutions Over Time and Space. Robert O. p. Emmerson.stanford. edited by Helga Haftendorn. omitting two of ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners.pdf>.26 87 David Capie On the influential role of the ASEAN Chair. “The myth of the ASEAN Way: Explaining the Evolution of the ASEAN Regional Forum”. cit. p. Tan “‘Walking Their Talk’?”.org/cable/2010/02/10HANOI17.. the consensus was that this should be reduced to Plus-8. This meeting was not held in 2011 when Indonesia was in the chair. 50. February 2010 <http://wikileaks. Canada and the European Union. see Alastair Iain Johnston.html>. <http://iisdb. NY: Oxford University Press. Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia. “Will the Real ASEAN Please Stand Up? Security. but in consultations that took place after a February 2010 foreign ministers retreat in Danang. op. See for example. Acharya. op.S.edu/evnts/4130/Emmerson_04_05_2005. The 2012 ARF Ministerial in effect confirmed a decision that had already been taken the previous year. 245. 16 August 2010. Wallander (New York. See “Vietnam’s Impressions of ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat in Danang”.. p. 88 89 90 91 92 93 .

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