MANILA – In recent months, China has sparred with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan over its extravagant territorial claims in the South and East China Seas and the West Philippine Sea. These conflicts have undermined regional security, impeded investment planning, and sparked an undeclared military contest between China and its regional counterweight, the United States.
Indeed, US Vice President Joe Biden recently made it clear that the resources and attention that the United States is allocating to the Asia-Pacific region are aimed primarily at enhancing security and stability. The US has, Biden declared, “set about…strengthening our alliances, deepening security partnerships, and investing like never before in regional institutions to help manage disputes peacefully.”
America’s increasing involvement in Asia has already bolstered the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to move toward a full-fledged diplomatic and economic “community,” akin in many ways to the European Economic Community that preceded the European Union. The ASEAN Community – which ASEAN leaders hope to establish by 2015 – would be a concert of nations, bound together by a shared commitment to sustainable development, that is outward-looking, resilient, peaceful, stable, and prosperous.
ASEAN’s pursuit of deeper integration follows a global trend toward using regional groupings and partnerships to gain economies of scale and enlarge “home” markets. At the same time, it reflects growing anxiety, stemming largely from China’s increasingly aggressive posture toward many of its neighbors.