Tension likened to pre-1914 Europe

Day Two of the conference on regional security issues: Felix Soh and Derwin Pereira report


Will Asian countries keep the peace? Two experts yesterday gave their views – one optimistic and one pessimistic.

* The pessimist

THE current levels of insecurity and tension in the region are reminiscent of those of pre-1914 Europe, says a former international security adviser to the French government.

Mr Francois Heisbourg, senior vice-president (strategic development) of Matra Defense-Espace, said this parallel “appears to be uncomfortably strong”.

He is the former director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and was once international security adviser to the French government.

At least two speakers at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Defence Conference yesterday disputed his pessimistic assessment.

Mr Heisbourg had asked: “What then can be done to avoid an unfolding of the sort of logic which precipitated Europe into a general war?”

He listed out what he labelled “the forces of disruption” in the Asia-Pacific region: * Claims and rivalries: “Territorial disputes are fairly numerous in the area.”

* Unallayed fears: “These sources of actual or potential tension are exacerbated by the manner in which recent history has been dealt with – or more exactly, not dealt with – in East Asia.”

* The lack of inhibition which characterises the attitude of many of the regional players in terms of the use of force within their own areas.

* Prospects could be worsened by the manner in which military budgets are spent, particularly in the Korean peninsula.

* The weakness of multilateral institutions and multilateral security arrangements could prove to be a negative factor.

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