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What is Asian security architecture?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2010


‘Architecture’ has emerged as the new catchphrase in Asian security politics. Despite its growing centrality, insufficient attention has thus far been given to defining the term, often leading to its imprecise usage. This article seeks to redress that shortcoming. It reviews the ways in which various scholars and practitioners have employed the term ‘security architecture’ and highlights the anomalies that their often differing employment has created. The article proposes a set of guidelines to aid conceptualisation and application of the term. In so doing it establishes criteria to ascertain what ‘security architecture’ actually exists in the Asian region, and must ultimately exist to assure regional security.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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1 Yuen Foong Khong, ‘The elusiveness of regional order: Leifer, the English school and Southeast Asia’, The Pacific Review, 18 (March 2005), pp. 23–41.

2 On institutions in Asia see Amitav Achayra, ‘Regional Institutions and Asian Security Order: Norms, Power and the Prospects for Peaceful Change’, in Muthiah Alagappa (ed.), Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 210–40; on institutions in general see John Duffield, ‘What are International Institutions?’, International Studies Review, 9 (2007), pp. 1–22; on order see Yuen Foong Khong, ‘The elusiveness of regional order’; on power see Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 20–6.

3 Buzan has attempted to link the security architecture concept to the regional security complex in ‘Security architecture in Asia: the interplay of regional and global levels’, The Pacific Review, 16 (2003), pp. 143–73 but does not treat the ‘architectural’ element itself as a separate or dynamic element in that interplay.

4 A point raised by John Duffield in the context of defining ‘institutions’ but equally applicable to the problem of defining and understanding ‘security architecture’ considered here. See Duffield, ‘What are International Institutions?’, p. 2.

5 Rudimentary efforts have been made to apply the architectural metaphor to regions other than Asia and Europe including Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. However, this relatively sparse body of literature is primarily empirical and makes no attempt to explicitly define the concept of ‘security architecture’. For further reading see Joseph McMillan, Richard Sokolsky, and Andrew C. Winner, ‘Toward a New Regional Security Architecture’, The Washington Quarterly, 26 (2003), pp. 161–75; Joseph R. Nunez, A 21st Century Security Architecture for the Americas: Multilateral Cooperation, Liberal Peace, and Soft Power (Carlisle, PA: US Army War College, 2002); and Benedikt Franke, ‘Africa’s Evolving Security Architecture and the Concept of Multilayered Security Communities’, Cooperation and Conflict, 43 (2008), pp. 313–40.

6 See, for example, Douglas J. Murray and Paul R. Viotti (eds), The Defence Policies of Nations: A Comparative Study (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).

7 Hanns W. Maull, ‘The European Security Architecture: Conceptual Lessons for Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation’, in Amitav Acharya and Evelyn Goh (eds), Reassessing Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007), p. 254.

8 See, for example, ‘Declaration on Peace and Cooperation issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council (including decisions leading to the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC)) (‘The Rome Declaration’)’, Rome, 8 November 1991.

9 Jusuf Wanandi, ‘The Future of ARF and CSCAP in the Regional Security Architecture’, Paper prepared for the Eighth Asia-Pacific Roundtable, Kuala Lumpur, 5–8 June 1994.

10 Barry J. Eichengreen, Toward a New International Financial Architecture: A Practical post-Asia Agenda (Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1999), p. 1. See also Nick Bisley, ‘Asian Security Architectures’ in Ashley Tellis and Michael Wills (eds), Strategic Asia 2007–2008: Domestic Political Change and Grand Strategy (Seatte and Washington, DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2007), pp. 342–3.

11 See, for example, Nirav Patel, ‘Value Cooperation, Not Antagonism: The Case for Functional-based Cooperation’, Policy Dialogue Brief, The Stanley Foundation, August 2008.

12 See, for example, Dick K. Nanto, East Asian Regional Architecture: New Economic and Security Arrangements and US Policy, CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, 18 September 2006.

13 Vinod K. Aggarwal and Min Gyo Koo (eds), Asia’s New Institutional Architecture: Evolving Structures for Managing Trade, Financial, and Security Relations (Berlin: Springer, 2008).

14 See, for example, Desmond Ball, ‘Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific: Official and Unofficial Responses’, in Annelies Heijmans, et al. (eds), Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities (Boulder & London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004), p. 48; and Barry Desker, ‘New Security Dimensions in the Asia-Pacific’, Asia-Pacific Review, 15 (2008), pp. 56–75.

15 Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Nontraditional Security and Multilateralism in Asia: Reshaping the Contours of Regional Security Architecture?’, Policy Analysis Brief, The Stanley Foundation, June 2007, pp. 1–3, 8, 10.

16 Peter Katzenstein, A World of Regions: Asia and Europe in the American Imperium (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2005), p. 10.

17 David Shambaugh, ‘China Engages Asia: Reshaping the Original Order’, International Security, 82 (2004/05), pp. 66, 95–96.

18 Desker, ‘New Security Dimensions in the Asia-Pacific’, pp. 56–58, 62, 70.

19 Bisley, ‘Asian Security Architectures’, pp. 341–69.

20 Chu Shulong, ‘Beyond Crisis Management: Prospects for a Northeast Asian Regional Security Architecture’, in Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), Security Through Cooperation: Furthering Asia Pacific Multilateral Engagement, CSCAP Regional Security Outlook 2007, pp. 8–11.

21 Hanns W. Maull, ‘Security Cooperation in Europe and Pacific Asia: A Comparative Analysis’, The Journal of East Asian Affairs, XIX (2005), p. 69.

22 Shambaugh, ‘The Evolving Asian System’, pp. 2–3.

23 Duffield, ‘What Are International Institutions?’, p. 1.

24 Reproduced in US Fed News, ‘Defense Secretary Gates Delivers Speech at Sophia University’, 9 November 2007.

25 James B. Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State, ‘Remarks Before the 18th General Meeting of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council’, Washington DC, 12 May 2009, pp. 3–4.

26 James A. Baker III, ‘America in Asia: Emerging Architecture for a Pacific Community’, Foreign Affairs, 70 (1991/1992), pp. 1–18.

27 See James A. Baker III, ‘A New Europe, A New Atlanticism: Architecture for a New Era’, Speech to the Berlin Press Club, 12 December 1989; and ‘The Euro-Atlantic Architecture: From West to East’, speech to the Aspen Institute, Berlin, Germany, 18 June 1991.

28 Mohan Malik, ‘The EAC and the Role of External Powers: Ensuring Asian Multilateralism is not Shanghaied’ in Aileen S.P. Baviera (ed.), Regional Security in East Asia: Challenges to Cooperation and Community Building (Quezon City, Philippines: UP Asia Center, 2008), p. 178.

29 Ralph Cossa, ‘Evolving US Views on Asia’s Future Institutional Architecture’ in Michael J. Green and Bates Gill (eds), Asia’s New Multilateralism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 34.

30 Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defence, United States of America, ‘America’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific’, First Plenary Session, The Shangri-la Dialogue, 30 May 2009, p. 4.

31 Signing the TAC is one of the principal requirements for governments seeking membership of the East Asia Summit. See Kurt M. Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, ‘Press Availability in Beijing, China’, Beijing, China, 14 October 2009, p. 7.

32 Anne Davies, ‘Obama searches for common ground on first trip to Asia’, Sydney Morning Herald (2 November 2009).

33 Campbell, ‘Press Availability in Beijing, China’, p. 7.

34 US Department of State, ‘Daily Press Briefing’, Washington DC, 6 October 2009. {} accessed on 5 November 2009.

35 See, for example, Gates, ‘America’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific’.

36 Nanto, East Asian Regional Architecture: New Economic and Security Arrangements and US Policy, p. 2.

37 One respected Southeast Asian analyst notes that ‘the US sees its current engagement of ASEAN as a way of indirectly engaging China as well, because given the existing regional security architecture, East Asia is very much ASEAN centred, ASEAN based.’ See the commentary of Tan See Seng cited in Victoria Jen, ‘US to develop closer trade ties with ASEAN at upcoming summit’,, 3 November 2009. {} accessed on 5 November 2009. An ASEAN free trade area with China came into force in January 2010.

38 Speech by H.E. Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan, ‘When the Pacific Ocean becomes an ‘Inland Sea’: Five Pledges to a Future Asia that “Acts Together”’, 14th International Conference on The Future of Asia, 22 May 2008, p. 5.

39 Cited in Kenneth McCallum, ‘Hatoyama Calls Meeting With Obama “Warm”’, The Wall Street Journal, 24 September 2009, p. A5.

40 Prime Minister of Australia Hon Kevin Rudd, ‘It's time to build an Asia-Pacific Community’, Address to the Asia Society AustralAsia Centre, Sydney, 4 June 2008, p. 4.

41 See, for example, Takashi Shiraishi, ‘Japan-US ties crucial for E. Asia’, Daily Yomiuri, 1 November 2009, p. 4.

42 Address by Mr. Masayoshi Hamada, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the Occasion of the East Asian Roundtable, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU), 2 June 2007.

43 See, for example, Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, ‘Australia, ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific’, Speech to the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, 18 July 2008; and Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister, Australia, ‘Key Note Address’, The Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, 29 May 2009.

44 Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), pp. 151–4.

45 See Patrick Walters, ‘Beijing plays spoiler on Asia summit’, The Australian (6 April 2005).

46 Rudd, ‘It’s time to build an Asia-Pacific Community’, p. 4.

47 See Fukuda, ‘When the Pacific Ocean becomes an “Inland Sea”’.

48 Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Press Conference, 4 December 2007.

49 Ralph A. Cossa, ‘East Asia Community-Building: Time for the US to Get on Board’, The Stanley Foundation, Policy Analysis Brief, September 2007, p. 4.

50 See, for example, ‘Joint Statement of the 10th China-EU Summit’, Beijing, 28 November 2007.

51 See, for example, ‘Strengthening International Cooperation, Safeguarding World Security’, Speech by Mr. Liu Jieyi, Director-General of Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, at the Twelfth Annual International Arms Control Conference Sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories, 19 January 2002; and Statement by H.E. Ambassador Hu Xiaodi at the First Committee of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 1 October 2002.

52 ‘Some thoughts on Establishing A Regional Security Order’, Statement by Ambassador Sha Zukang at the East-West Center’s Senior Policy Seminar, Honolulu, 7 August 2000.

53 This analysis is drawn from author interviews (Taylor) conducted with Chinese scholars and officials, Beijing, April 2007. The authors are also grateful for research assistance provided by Jiang Yang.

54 See, for example, Joshua Kurlantzick, ‘Pax Asia-Pacifica? East Asian Integration and Its Implications for the US’, The Washington Quarterly, 30 (2007), pp. 67–77.

55 Council on Foreign Relations, ‘A Conversation with Surin Pitsuwan’, 14 May 2008.

56 Chairman’s Statement of the 15th ASEAN Summit, ‘Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples’, Cha-Am Hua Hin, Thailand, 23–25 October 2009, p. 5.

57 Amitav Acharya, ‘The Strong in the World of the Weak: Southeast Asia in Asia’s Regional Architecture’, in Michael J. Green and Bates Gill (eds), Asia’s New Multilateralism: Cooperation, Competition, and the Search for Community (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 180–1.

58 Chin Kin Wah, ‘Emerging East Asian Regional Architecture: ASEAN Perspectives’, in William T. Tow and Chin Kin Wah (eds), ASEAN, India, Australia: Towards Closer Engagement in a New Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009), p. 23.

59 Acharya, ‘The Strong in the World of the Weak’, p. 179.

60 See Walters, ‘Beijing plays spoiler on Asia summit’.

61 Acharya, ‘The Strong in the World of the Weak’, p. 181.

62 Goh Chok Tong, Senior Minister, ‘Constructing East Asia’, Speech at the Asia Society Conference, Bangkok, 9 June 2005.

63 The Network of East Asian Think Tanks (NEAT) Working Group on ‘Overall Architecture of Community Building in East Asia’, Final Report, 2006, p. 5.

64 US Fed News, ‘Defense Secretary Gates Delivers Speech at Sophia University’.

65 Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, ‘The US and Asia’s Emerging Security Architecture’, Paper presented at the Shangri-la Dialogue, Singapore, 3 June 2006.

66 Rudd, ‘It’s time to build an Asia-Pacific Community’, p. 4.; and Smith, ‘Australia, ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific’, p. 22.

67 Thomas S. Wilkins, ‘Developing Regional Security Architecture in the Asia-Pacific’, Asia:NZ online, {} accessed on 5 November 2009.

68 Desmond Ball, ‘The Evolving Security Architecture in the Asia-Pacific Region’, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre Working Paper no. 340 (Canberra: Australian National University, 1999), p. 25.

69 Buzan and Waever, Regions and Powers, p. 27.

70 Ellen L. Frost, Asia’s New Regionalism (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2008), pp. 131–2.

71 Ibid., p. 148.

72 See Carsten Tams, ‘The Functions of a European Security and Defence Identity and its Institutional Form’, in Helga Haftendorn, Robert O. Keohane and Celeste A. Wallander (eds), Imperfect Unions: Security Institutions over Time and Space (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 80–103.

73 Aggerwol and Koo (eds), Asia’s New Institutional Architecture, p. 14.

74 For further reading see Duffield, ‘What are International Institutions?’.

75 See, for example, Lisa L. Martin, ‘Credibility, Costs and Institutions’, World Politics 45 (1993), pp. 406–32.

76 Maull, ‘Security Cooperation in Europe and Pacific Asia’, pp. 70–6.

77 ‘Hatoyama pushes East Asian community’, Asahi Shimbun (English language edition), 23 September 2009.

78 Rudd, ‘It’s time to build an Asia-Pacific Community’; and Adam Gartrell, ‘Rudd pushing Asia Pacific Community plan’, Sydney Morning Herald (25 October 2009).

79 See C. Raja Mohan, ‘India and the Balance of Power’, Foreign Affairs, 85 (2006), pp. 22–3.

80 For further reading see Evelyn Goh, ‘Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia: Analyzing Regional Security Strategies’, International Security, 32 (2007/08), pp. 113–57.

81 See Jusuf Wanandi, ‘Remodeling Regional Architecture’, PacNet, 13, Pacific Forum CSIS, Honolulu, Hawaii, 18 February 2009.

82 See Japan Center for International Exchange, Towards Community Building in East Asia, Dialogue and Research Monitor Overview Report, 2005.

83 For further reading see Amitav Acharya, ‘Competing Communities: What the Australian and Japanese Ideas Mean for Asia’s Regional Architecture’, PacNet, 70, Pacific Forum CSIS, Honolulu, Hawaii, 27 October 2009.

84 See, for example, Anthony Milner, Region, Security and the Return of History (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2003).

85 Allan Gyngell, ‘Design Faults: The Asia Pacific’s Regional Architecture’, Policy Brief, Lowy Institute for International Policy, July 2007, p. 10.

86 Ibid., p. 8.