RIETI Policy Symposium

Asian Security Environment after the 9.11 Terrorism

Special Report "Asian Security Landscape 2003"

After September 11, the international security environment, including in Asia, changed dramatically. Regional conflicts triggered by diverse and complicated factors, such as ethnicity and religion, were exacerbated, and terrorist attacks have occurred frequently. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is at a very uncertain state. We witnessed a positive movement toward detente on the Korean peninsula, as the Japan-North Korea summit meeting was realized in September 2002, but the situation does not allow optimism. With this as background, RIETI editor Akiko Kumagai interviewed four specialists who visited RIETI attending the RIETI symposium "Asian Security Environment after the 9.11 Terrorism" held in December 2002, on the security landscape in Asia.

Benjamin Self (Senior Associate, the Henry l. Stimson Center)

--- China seems to be succeeding in recasting itself as a supporter of the United States' status as the bulwark of the existing international order. If China becomes a backer of the US, do you think the US will expect a different role of Japan?

Self: All the states in North East Asia including China and Japan are expected to support the US regarding to nuclear non-proliferation, and opposing North Korean posture. Japan has had a role, not only against NK, but also in counter-terrorism campaign. On the global scale, Japan is a security partner of the US, and China is a cooperating supporter, but not an ally. Thus, expected roles and importance of Japan is entirely different from China. As a better neighbor, China can allow Japan to play more constructive role on a global scale and not just focusing on its own security interests in North East Asia. In this regard, Japan supports peace keeping operations in East Timor, Golan Heights and elsewhere, humanitarian relief and disaster relief, and Japan can develop these activities further more.

---What is the Japan's expected role in the world in 2003?

Self: Japan should continue to support for global security through UN cooperation. In 2003, Japan can play substantial roles in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and perhaps in conflict in Iraq for humanitarian relief and post conflict reconstruction. The likelihood of a war in the Persian Gulf is increasing and in that context, Japan should be a member of the coalition of the states against Iraq even if it is not an active fighter. There are two dimensions of Japan's security role. One dimension is security cooperation in the ASEAN Regional Forum, UN cooperation in North East Asia including peace keeping. The other dimension is at US-Japan alliance. Japan can continue to advance its cooperation with the US in terms of military, and strategic affairs, including missile defense.

---Do you think there will be improvements in diplomatic normalization between NK and Japan and the US?

Self: NK survives in part by being unpredictable in its policy choices. Thus, it is possible that they make sudden sets of concessions to achieve normalization and economic stimulus involving cooperation from Japan to be removed from the terrorist state list of the US and to be open to multilateral development aid from the Asian Development Bank. It is also possible that Bush administration will be less threatening in its rhetoric toward NK. Threatening may only push NK toward a more belligerent attitude. Giving them concessions does not help either. The US can at least stop being so confrontational and focus on the strategy of benign containment as opposed to hawkish engagement.

Mehrdad Haghayeghi (Associate Professor, Southwest Missouri State University)

--- Since Sept.11, the US strategic alliance with Uzbekistan has intensified. How this alliance will affect the security environment in Central Asia, and what will like the relations between Central Asia and the US, Russia, China and EU respectively?

Haghayeghi: Uzbekistan has historically been a major power in the Central Asia--- almost every dynasty of government and principalities of Central Asia. It has always played dominant role. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have always been subordinated. Under Russia and the Communist rule, the republic was divided by Lenin and Stalin. In 100 years, each ethnic group developed their own identities and political elites. With the US strategic alliance with Uzbekistan, it is reasserting its domination. That created friction between Uzbekistan and other countries who now have political identities. Russia has always been a major power. Although Russian influence is waning, it is being reinvigorated because of the terrorist attacks and its desire to prevent losing ground for the US presence there. China is trying to increase its sphere of influence in Central Asia for natural resources or trade, but also for military, security and defense. Central Asians have been historically suspicious of Chinese intentions. Now because China is a rising power and because of its proximity, Central Asia has to balance Chinese interests and Russian interests and since 9/11, against US interests. EU is involved but its role is much more benign. It is actually constructive role particularly though the OSCE. Yet, the relations with Russia, China and the US will dominate in the Central Asia.

Kanti Bajpai (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

--- How did Sept.11 and the US military presence in South Asia affect the security environment in the region? How will the relations among the countries, especially the India-Pakistan relations change in 2003?

Bajipai: The keyword in describing the security in South Asia will be "terrorism" as in 2002. Despite the US military presence in the region after 9/11, a series of terrorist attacks occurred. In 2001 and 2002, Kashmiri extremists attacked many symbolic sites in India including Srinagar and New Delhi. India also reacted acutely. As a result, the India-Pakistan relations deteriorated to a highly volatile situation in summer of 2002. We will likely continue to see this unpredictable dangerous condition in 2003. In other countries too, the political extremists became very active. In Bangladesh, right-wing Islamic forces are on the rise. In Nepal, political extremists bring on violent insurgency. In Sri Lanka, the peace process is in India's interest but the legitimization of the LTTE (Liberation Tiger for Tamil Eeelam) could well lead to crisis with Colombo as well. The US presence after 9/11 did not help pacify this turbulent zone, but indeed worsened the India-Pakistan relations greatly. The political extremists in the region became more active than ever.

--- How is the anti-US sentiment in the region?

Bajipai: In India, anti-US sentiment is on the rise. They claim that the US is treating Pakistan too much as the security partner. There is also an anti-US movement but not in Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Derek Da Cunha (Senior Fellow, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies)

--- Southeast Asia has been described as the second front in the war against terrorism. Yet, most Southeast Asia States are modernizing and expanding the kind of military hardware for conventional threats, rather than for the unconventional threat of terrorism. Can ASEAN continue to share a common regional objective?

Da Cunha: The issues are two-level. At one level, ASEAN is reinvigorated because of the campaign against the terrorism. To that extent ASEAN is asked by the US particularly to track down the funding to Al Qaeda. Security agencies of Southeast Asian countries are certainly sharing the intelligence to monitor. I think that all the security related issues are a silver lining for ASEAN. When one country introduces new weapon systems in the region, it establishes the new benchmark of military power which then other countries match. Military buildup has its own dynamics as I would say that power has deterrence.

--- Will this trend continue in 2003?

Da Cunha: This trend of military buildup will continue in the years to come. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand reduced their military capability five years ago because of the economic crisis. After the recovery from the economic crisis, they decided to catch up to what is happening in other countries. Thus, modernization and expansion of military power in ASEAN will likely continue.

--- How is the relationship between ASEAN, China the US and Japan?

Da Cunha: In general, ASEAN countries have good relationships with the US with an exception of Myanmar. ASEAN has an all-round good relationship with the US in military, political, diplomatic and cultural areas. ASEAN generally has a good relationship with China in economic and diplomatic realms. With Japan, ASEAN has restricted relations in terms of economic, cultural and diplomatic relations. Thus, the US has a leading edge in that respect.

(Interview and report by KUMAGAI Akiko)