The Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Uniting the 10 major mainland and insular Southeast
Asian states, ASEAN has also established formal links
to Northeast Asia (ASEAN+3), as well as to the world
at large (ASEAN Regional Forum). It is appropriate at
this time to take stock of ASEAN and project its future.
How effectively have ASEAN and its organizational
offspring functioned as a security community? Have
the Association’s members been able to aggregate
their security interests? Have they presented a united
security front to other states? Do they collaborate to
resolve internal security problems and protect one
another against external security challenges?
In this monograph, Professor Sheldon Simon, who
has written on Asian security for over 40 years, argues
that ASEAN is pursuing an engagement strategy in
the 21st century, bringing the great powers (the United
States, China, India, Japan, and the European Union)
into Southeast Asia’s political and economic discussions.
While these large deliberative arrangements provide
regular opportunities to keep one another informed of
intentions, they have been too unwieldy to effect major
changes in political and economic relations. For the
United States, ASEAN-dominated organizations have
taken second place to Washington’s bilateral ties to
Southeast Asia, particularly with respect to Indonesia,
Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. Nevertheless,
ASEAN’s symbolic importance to the United States
was acknowledged in the summer of 2006 when both
the State Department and Congress announced that
Washington planned to appoint an ambassador to the association. America’s future multilateral security
relationships with Asia must take a more active ASEAN
The Strategic Studies Institute is pleased to offer
this monograph as part of its efforts to help U.S.
military and defense leaders understand the key role
that Southeast Asia-centered organizations are playing
in Asian security.
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About the Author
Faculty Associate of the Center for Asian Research at
Arizona State University where he has been a faculty
member for over 30 years. He is also senior advisor to
The National Bureau of Asian Research (Seattle and
Washington, DC). A specialist on Asian international
politics, Dr. Simon is the author or editor of nine books
and some 130 scholarly articles and book chapters. His
most recent books are edited volumes: The Many Faces
of Asian Security (2001) and Religion and Conflict in South
and Southeast Asia: Disrupting Violence (2007).