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Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security

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between the RSCs in South and Southeast Asia.
TheASEANstatesmanaged to shelve thedisputes among themselves,
effectively forming aweak subregional security regimewhosemembers
agreed not to pursue their disagreements by force. But the samewas not
true in Indochina. Thailand was in the front line against the communist
trio along its borders with Laos and Cambodia, a role that combined
both traditional elements of Thai–Vietnamese rivalry and strong inputs
from Cold War alignments. Small-scale military clashes were a regular
feature on these borders, as was Thai provision of sanctuary for anti-
Vietnamese forces. Thailand, with the support of its ASEAN partners,
was unsettled by the prospect of immediate adjacency to Vietnamese
communist power that resulted from Vietnam’s domination of Laos
and Cambodia (Simon 1983: 306, 310–11; Gordon 1986). Laos had been
largely under Vietnamese control since its days as a supply corridor
to the south during the war against the United States. But the acutely
fragmented and conflictual domestic politics of Cambodia meant that
it, or at times parts of it, was sometimes at war with Vietnam. After the
reunification of Vietnam, and the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia
in 1975, the two communist regimes fell into severe rivalry, escalating
to major fighting in 1977. In late 1978 Vietnam invaded and occupied
Cambodia, installing a puppet government and pushing the Khmer
Rouge into guerrilla warfare. The Vietnamese remained in occupation
of Cambodia until 1989. With 140,000 troops in Cambodia and 50,000
in Laos, Vietnam was, until the end of the Cold War, effectively in con-
trol of an Indochinese empire. Thailand opposed this by providing sup-
port and sanctuary to theKhmer Rouge and other anti-Vietnamese rebel
groups, actions that resulted inVietnamesemilitary incursions into, and
sometimes occupation of, Thai border territory. At least onemajor battle
resulted, when Thai troops expelled well-entrenched Vietnamese forces
in 1987.
In Southeast Asia, therefore, the regional level was neither fully au-
tonomous nor subordinated to the point of overlay. Cold War penetra-
tion was exceptionally heavy, and played a major role in shaping the
Northeast, Southeast Asian RSCs during Cold War
regional bipolarisation of conflict. But woven through this were sub-
stantial elements of still active regional level securitisation.
The interregional level
There are five elements to consider at this level. First are the linkages
between Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. These mostly comprised
defence treaties linking Australia and New Zealand to states in South-
east Asia. The Southeast Asia Collective Defence Treaty of 1954 tied
them (as well as other Western powers and Pakistan) to Thailand and
the Philippines, though it largely ceased to be active after its organisa-
tion (SEATO) was dissolved in 1977. The five-nation defence agreement
of 1971 linked them (and Britain) to Singapore and Malaysia. Both of
these arrangements can be consideredmostly as offshoots of global level
dynamics, respectively US containment alliances and British postcolo-
nial arrangements. But they did provide specific, albeit modest, inter-
regional links that otherwise would not have existed. It was notable in
defining the regional boundary between Southeast Asia and the South
Pacific that neither Australia andNewZealand nor Papua-NewGuinea
(which gained independence in 1975) joined ASEAN. The South Pacific
states did develop some loose regional forums, but distance and
water enabled this part of the world to remain unstructured in regional
security terms.
Second is the unresolved territorial dispute between Japan and the
Soviet Union over four small islands off the northern coast of Hokkaido.
This dispute was much amplified by the Cold War alignments, but not
dependent on them. It meant that there was no formal treaty ending the
Second World War between Japan and the Soviet Union.
Third is the residual fear and dislike of Japan shared by all of the
countries that experienced Japanese occupation before and during the
SecondWorldWar. This was much stronger in Northeast than in South-
east Asia, the latter having suffered such occupation for only a fewyears
during the Second World War. But it was a standing reminder of how
easily the region could become a strategic whole in the presence of a
local great power, and this memory played a significant role in keeping
Japan neutralised as an independent strategic player in East Asia.
Fourth are the linkages to South Asia comprising China’s border dis-
puteswith India and its alliancewith Pakistan. These have been covered
in chapter 4.
The interregional level
Fifth, and most central to RSCT analysis, are the linkages between
Northeast and Southeast Asia. As would be expected from the different
levels of power, there was almost no spillover from south to north in
East Asia, but quite a lot from north to south, almost wholly in the form
of China’s direct engagement in Southeast Asia (though also including
Taiwan’s territorial claims and bases in the SouthChina Sea, and Japan’s
historical shadow). This linkage bears striking resemblance to China’s
role in South Asia, and like it posed some classification questions for
RSCT. In part, China’s role in these neighbouring regions can be read
at the global level in the context of China’s role as an independently
minded great power. But in part it reflected genuine interregional dy-
namics that would have existed regardless of the Cold War. In both
cases the security linkage between China and the adjacent region was
lopsided, with some of the local states placing China high on their list
of threats to national security, but with China placing them relatively
low in priority compared to its worries about the two superpowers and
Although similar in form to China’s involvement in South Asia, the
pattern in Southeast Asia represented a considerably stronger inter-
regional link. As in the South Asian case, there was a Chinese dis-
pute with a local state (Vietnam), and consequent alliances with other
local actors (Thailand, Khmer Rouge). The rivalry betweenVietnam and
China traces back to a very long history of Chinese attempts (often suc-
cessful) to impose its suzerainty on Vietnam, and Vietnamese resistance
to this. During North Vietnam’s struggle to overcome the US attempt
to keep Vietnam divided, communist solidarity and the logic of Cold
War anti-Americanism overrode local differences, and cast China as an
ally of North Vietnam. But once Vietnam achieved unity, and began to
consolidate its grip on Laos and Cambodia, the regional level became
active again (thus, inter alia, making a nonsense of the US rationale
for its intervention in Vietnam that it was to prevent Chinese hege-
mony in the region). China vigorously opposed Vietnam’s takeover of
Cambodia. Along with ASEAN and the West, it supported the Khmer
Rouge throughout the decade of Vietnam’s occupation with a substan-
tial flow of arms supplies, and made common cause with Thailand
in this venture. During 1978 heavy fighting broke out along the Sino-
Vietnamese border and, in 1979, in response to Vietnam’s invasion of
Cambodia,China launchedamonth-longpunitivewar againstVietnam.
In addition to Vietnam, several other states in Southeast Asia had
strong historical reasons for seeing China as a threat. China’s many
Northeast, Southeast Asian RSCs during Cold War
centuries of suzerainty over, and sometime occupation of, Indochina is
felt particularly strongly by Vietnam. But most Southeast Asian states
contain significant populations of Chinese, which during the Cold War
gave rise to fears of fifth-column treason, particularly in Malaysia and
Indonesia (Girling 1973: 127–9; Simon 1983: 304, 312–13; 1984: 526–7;
Tajima 1981: 9–10, 21–6). These fears were amplified by the history of
post-independence links between