Force modernisation trends in Southeast Asia
Date of Issue2004
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Southeast Asian states have, in recent years, engaged in force modernization programs to varying degrees. Although the situation does not comply with a strict definition of an arms race, it is also obvious that what Southeast Asian armed forces are doing is not maintaining the military status quo, as they are enhancing existing capabilities as well as acquiring new capabilities. A complex myriad of factors account for the phenomenon of military modernization and arms build-up in the region, in the context of a perceived reduction of the US commitment to the region, new requirements arising from EEZ surveillence and protection, the impact of domestic factors, inter-state tensions and the broadening of regional security concerns. Analysts fear that military modernization efforts could be potentially destabilizing, especially given the presence of inter-state tensions and contentious bilateral issues. The regional arms build-up has also placed constraints on multilateral security cooperation due to its reinforcement of mutual suspicions over each other's intentions. This points to the need for arms control and other political and diplomatic measures, such as confidence-building measures (CBMs) which could lessen tensions and put a brake on the competitive arms build-up. The msot promising so far have been CBMs in the form of military-level CBMs must be expanded considerably to enhance functional multilateral cooperation, lower mutual mistrust, and focus attention on common security threats, such as those emanating from regional flashpoints involving China, emerging non-traditional security threats such as arms smuggling, illegal migration and piracy, as well as humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping, such as that carried out in East Timor from 1999. In the post-11 September era, the obvious need for multilateral security cooperation to counter the threat emanating from transnational terrorism in Southeast Asia is also an emergent factor that could provice the necessary political will towards overcoming barriers of mutual suspicions. The opportunities provided by such an impetus should not be missed.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Military and naval science::Strategy::Asia
RSIS Working Papers ; 059/04
Nanyang Technological University