Asia, Europe ‘need regional security structures’

ASIA and Europe must develop their own regional security structures to cope with the uncertainty of continued American commitment to police the world, a leading French academic said yesterday.

The Director of the French Institute of International Relations, Professor Thierry de Montbrial, told an audience of some 200 businessmen, academics and diplomats that at the same time, Asia and Europe needed to avoid an over-reliance on Washington’s economic and military clout.

“We face the same problems. We need American presence for the foreseeable future. But at the same time, we do not want to accept a US hegemony,” hesaid.

Prof de Montbrial, here on a two-week visit as an Institute of South-east Asian Studies (Iseas) distinguished senior fellow, was speaking at a public lecture at Raffles Hotel.

He said the two regions could not take a “naive view of security” because of ever-present dangers to state security, citing Bosnia as an example.

By developing regional security structures, they would complement the existing United Nations system, which by itself could not guarantee international peace, he said. The creation of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) was a step in the right direction for Asian regional security.

The ARF groups the six Asean members, their major trading partners – the US, Japan, the European Union, Canada, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand – and Russia, China, Vietnam, Laos and Papua New Guinea.

He added that in view of recurrent problems in Russia and Yugoslavia, chances of external shocks undermining security are much higher in Europe than in Asia. But this was balanced by Europe’s greater experience in handling crises on account of its longer history of security co-operation.

He said countries should look to be participants of security arrangements outside their region to strengthen international security. “I totally understand the Japanese when they want to be a party to the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe mechanism. Because Japan, as a major power, has a stake in European security.”

He added that if such a strategy was worked out between competing regional organisations, it could see results in 20 to 30 years.

Iseas director Professor Chan Heng Chee said that security co-operation between regional organisations and participation in each other’s arrangements required political will. “A lot of imminent good sense must enter the picture to make this nexus grow.”

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