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Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security

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strategic policy begin to make sense in
balance-of-power terms.
Its policies in the regions bordering it have to be read as a mixture
of global and interregional. Its support for North Vietnam was almost
wholly in the global context of China’s countercontainment against the
United States. Chinawas perhaps never keen to see its historic rivalViet-
nam reunified (Keylor 1984: 390), and certainly opposed the extension
of Vietnamese hegemony over Laos andCambodia (Gordon 1986: 68–9).
Its opposition to Vietnam and India, and support for the Khmer Rouge
and Pakistan, was a mixture of playing local balances against potential
Asian rivals and running a countercontainment policy against Soviet al-
lies. Vietnam confronted China with particularly difficult choices about
the tradeoffs among its interregional objectives in Southeast Asia, and
its global ones vis-a`-vis the United States and the Soviet Union. After
1971, China’s link to Pakistan became a useful complementarity in its
relations with the United States, for whom Pakistan was also a contain-
ment ally. China also had to struggle against the fact that most of its
potential allies in the region viewed it as a threat. From the late 1970s,
after the consolidation of the Soviet–Vietnamese alliance and the Viet-
namese occupation of Cambodia, China’s natural security interest was
to identify itself with ASEAN’s fears of both Vietnam and the Soviet
Union. But the complicated interplay of local and great power security
dynamics, not to mention China’s territorial claims in the South China
Sea, made this logic far from straightforward. Thailand was the most
amenable of the ASEAN states to China’s position, because it was by far
the most exposed of the ASEAN states to the threat from Vietnam, and
welcomed the Chinese counterweight. Malaysia and Indonesia, by
contrast, focused more on the longer-term threat of Chinese hege-
monism to the region than on the more immediate, but in the long run
much smaller, threat from Vietnam (Simon 1983: 310–11; 1984: 526–33;
Calvocoressi 1982: 19–20; Tajima 1981: 15). Because opinion in ASEAN
was divided, Vietnam could portray itself and the Soviet Union as serv-
ing regional interests by resisting the reassertion of Chinese hegemony
over Southeast Asia (Simon 1983: 312–13).
This interaction between local and great power security dynamics ex-
plains the failure of all attempts during the ColdWar to create a security
regime covering the whole of Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s promotion of a
‘zone of peace, freedom, and neutrality’ (ZOPFAN) confronted two dif-
ficulties. First, it created divisions within ASEAN about the meanings
of the terms in relation to the trade and security links that individual
Northeast, Southeast Asian RSCs during Cold War
members already hadwith outside powers. Second, it was paralysed by
the acute division between theASEANgroup andVietnam (Simon 1983:
309–10; Kim 1977: 755, 766; Weatherbee 1978: 411–13; Simon 1975: 53–7;
Girling 1973: 125–6). The Soviet proposal for Asian Collective Security,
first floated in 1969, attempted to approach the problem from a different
angle. As in South Asia, the Soviet Union wished to dampen down the
local security rivalries in order to highlight the common threat to the
region posed by China, and wanted local conflict resolution in order to
strengthen its containment programme against China (Tajima 1981: 30).
The Chinese, in turn, favoured an ASEAN-style ZOPFAN as a means of
excluding the Soviet Union from the region.
In Northeast Asia the picture is more about contradictions in policies
among the great powers. Despite their split, China and the Soviet Union
both supported North Korea as a communist ally and strategic buffer
against the West. They also had similar policies towards Japan, seeking
to weaken its ties to the United States, but also to keep it militarily and
politically weak and pacifistic in attitude. The reverse was the case re-
garding Taiwan, where, after the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet Unionwas
more in line with US policy, though for different reasons. Moscow was
probably quite happy to see the division of China maintained, both as a
distraction to Beijing and as an irritant in US–China strategic relations.
Using the levels-of-analysis scheme fromRSCTto thinkaboutEastAsian
security dynamics during the ColdWar produces the following picture.
Fromaglobalperspective, the triangulargameof containmentandcoun-
tercontainment among the United States, the USSR, and China spanned
not only East Asia but also South Asia. This global power game pene-
trateddeeply intodomestic and regional securitypolitics throughout the
region. At the interregional level, the geostrategic position of China and,
to a lesser extent, historical memories of Japanese imperialism spanned
the Asian area sufficiently to think of it as a supercomplex: three regions
loosely linked by great power-driven interregional security dynamics.
But at the regional level, South, Northeast, and Southeast Asian secur-
ity dynamics were largely separate. In Northeast Asia an older conflict
formation was heavily penetrated by superpower rivalry, though it re-
mainedvisible in the local securitisation rhetoric. In SoutheastAsia there
was a more active regional bipolarisation, albeit one heavily shaped by
Cold War impositions. The United States, in stark contrast to its policy
in Europe, cultivated mainly bilateral alliances, and did nothing to en-
courage the formation of regional alliances or institutions either within
or between the two halves of East Asia (Katzenstein 1996b: 141). It was
that pattern of relativemutual indifference thatwas to change after 1990,
when the relinking ofNortheast and Southeast Asian security dynamics
at the regional level (and not just in Chinese, Japanese, US, and Soviet
perspectives) began to unfold.
6 The 1990s and beyond: an emergent
East Asian complex
Unlike in South Asia, where the ending of the Cold War did not make
much difference to the regional security dynamics, in East Asia it made
a big difference. In Southeast Asia the withdrawal of Soviet power and
the pulling back of US forces facilitated the shift away from a conflict-
ual bipolarisation and towards a security regime. In Northeast Asia,
the confrontation on the Korean peninsula continued, and Japan chose
to remain a subordinate partner of the United States. The military con-
frontation of theColdWardropped away, but only to givemore freedom
of action to China, whose weight in the region was increasing rapidly.
This encouraged the local states to begin relinking their security affairs
on an East Asian scale. The main argument in this chapter is that, by
giving more weight to China, the ending of the Cold War opened the
way for an external transformation in the regional security architecture
of East Asia. From the 1980s economically, and during the 1990s also
in a military-political sense, the states of Northeast and Southeast Asia
increasingly began tomerge into a single RSC. A benchmark date to sig-
nal the before and after points of this merger could be 1994–5, when the
ASEANRegional Forum (ARF)was set up, andVietnam joinedASEAN.
This merger had both historical precedents and ColdWar precursors as
sketched above. As well as being driven by classical military-political
security dynamics, themaking of anEastAsian complexwas alsodriven
by the Japan-centred economic integration of the region, which added a
strong economic dimension to its securitisation processes. As in Europe,
the keyUSalliance structures stayed inplace, but inEastAsia theUS role
as ring-holder in the regional security dynamics remained considerably
stronger than it was on the other side of Eurasia.
Within the framework ofRSCT, the process of external transformation
involved in the merger of Northeast and Southeast Asia changes the
The domestic level