Does ASEAN Work? Analyzing the Future of ASEAN in Mitigating Disputes in Asia

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Southeast Asia has long been of significant interest to scholars and its importance tends to grow not just politically and economically but also militarily. Besides being an important engine for global economic growth, Southeast Asia has also witnessed a plethora of important political changes and the emergence of new security threats. The end of the Cold War and the Cambodian conflict, the birth of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), closer relations between Vietnam and ASEAN members, and the tentative rapprochement between Vietnam and China may have set the stage for a positive regional security relationship. However, historical mistrust, enduring territorial disputes, and competing maritime claims have combined to weaken a partially successful regional security structure.

This paper weighs the role of ASEAN in the development and functioning of Asia‐Pacific multilateralism, and the extent to which ASEAN has been successful in creating a sense of regional community and addressing maritime disputes in Asia (especially the South China Sea). The 1967 Bangkok declaration laid the establishment of an Association for Regional Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Its objectives were accelerating economic growth, social progress, and cultural development through joint endeavors and to promote regional peace and stability. Responding to the growing potential for conflict and the assertiveness of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the ASEAN foreign ministers adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea in July 1992. The Declaration called for the peaceful resolution of “all sovereignty and jurisdictional issues pertaining to the South China Sea. However, the relationship between ASEAN and China appeared to draw even closer with the signing of a revised Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in November 2002.

ASEAN and China have established a significant and continuing relationship through summits, ministerial meetings, meetings between senior officials, and meetings of experts, etc. But things don’t look fair quite often and ASEAN is criticized for being “resting in peace” and doing nothing especially in resolving maritime disputes in Asia. Despite such criticisms and potential challenges, there is hope that China and ASEAN will resolve their differences. In fact, some of the multilateral proposals from ASEAN states such as the second round of competition for projects for the cooperation fund or the 2015 the “ASEAN‐China Year of Maritime Cooperation,” etc., would not only create favorable conditions for better maritime cooperation but would also shape a new pattern of diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and an image building for ASEAN.


Southern Association for Public Opinion Research Annual Conference (SAPOR)


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