May 09, 2011

This Weekend’s News: Eye on ASEAN

Southeast Asian leaders concluded the 18th Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit this weekend. Coverage of the summit seemed
to focus mostly on the protracted border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand that
overshadowed a large portion of the meeting. The dispute – largely over Hindu
temples that sit on overlapping territorial claims – could
undermine regional stability and plans for an economic community by 2015
according to reports. Perhaps just as important, the lack of resolution could signal,
according to Reuters, “the
apparent inability of the bloc to deal with disagreements
” at a time when
Southeast Asian nations are attempting to make progress on a range of complex
security challenges, including food and energy security, climate change and
contested claims in the South China Sea.

Indonesia, hosting this year’s summit, has been seeking a
larger role in ASEAN with the aim of bolstering the group’s strength and
credibility. According to The Wall Street
, ASEAN “has
long been criticized by academics and economists for being something of a talk
, without the political will to take serious steps to more closely
integrate its economies,” or deal with other looming challenges. But despite the
stalled negotiations over the weekend, Indonesia still hopes to seek a larger
role in ASEAN, and for the group to become one “that
takes actions and doesn't just make joint declarations

Besides the Thai-Cambodia border dispute, the summit
included discussions on a range of security issues that plague the region.
According to CBS News, the summit
focused on “concerns
about food shortages, spiraling energy prices, human trafficking and maritime

Indeed, territorial disputes in the South China Sea were a
central focus for the group just weeks after China announced that it would add
ships and personnel to strengthen its enforcement over maritime claims

throughout the region. “‘We deemed the South China Sea issue, in all its
various dimensions, as
having the potential to undermine the stability of our region
,’ according
to the final communique released after the meeting,” CBS News reported. “The smaller nations, together
with the U.S., worry that China may use its military might to seize the area
outright or assume de facto control with naval patrols
. That could threaten
one of the world's busiest commercial sea lanes.” According to The Bangkok Post, ASEAN leaders "emphasised the 'need for a breakthrough' in talks with Beijing about a
code of conduct in the South China Sea
." (CNAS is currently conducting
a study on the South China Sea that you can read more about here.)

Many of the challenges discussed at the ASEAN summit this
weekend are likely to be raised in other fora, including the ASEAN
Regional Forum (ARF), the principal venue for security dialogue in the region.
According to Voice of Vietnam,
Southeast Asian leaders over the weekend “agreed to promote consultations, take
joint actions at multilateral forums and pledged to
accelerate regional cooperation in copying (sic) with challenges, especially
climate change, natural disaster control, food and energy security.
” We
will continue to follow these discussions and report back.

This Week’s Events

Today at 4:30 p.m., CSIS will host a discussion with Deputy
Secretary of State James Steinberg and Admiral Thad Allen, former commandant of
the U.S. Coast Guard, on “The Road to
Nuuk: U.S. Policy Interests in the Arctic

On Tuesday at noon, the Society for International
Development is hosting a “Food
Security and Agricultural Workshop.”
Then, at 12:45 p.m., SAIS will be
hosting Guenter Liebel, deputy minister for Environment at the Austrian Federal
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, to discuss
“Energy and Climate Policy in
At 3:00 p.m. the Wilson Center is holding a panel discussion on
the “Connections
Between Climate and Stability: Lessons from Asia and Africa.”
Then, at 4:00
p.m., the Wilson Center will also hold an event on “India’s
Quest for a Lower Carbon Footprint.”

On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., go to the Atlantic Council to
hear John Briscoe, Director of Harvard University’s Water Security Initiative
speak on “Transboundary
Waters in South Asia: Conflict or Cooperation?”
 Then at 2:00 p.m. the Heritage Foundation will
hold a panel discussion on “Should
the U.S. Provide Food Aid to North Korea,”
featuring CNAS’ own Patrick

On Friday at 10:00 a.m., the Organization of American States
is hosting Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), for a discussion on “Climate
Change: What Americans Can and Must Do.”