ASEAN Moves Closer to Regional Defense Cooperation

ASEAN Moves Closer to Regional Defense Cooperation

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Assessing the Association of South East Asian Nations is always a tricky matter.

The organization, which brings together 10 Southeast Asian countries, has been criticized lately for its inability to mediate the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as well as for failing to put enough pressure on the Myanmar junta. These deserved criticisms also call into question a pillar of the association, namely the noninterference policy that prohibits intervention in members' internal affairs. But "the ASEAN way" is unlikely to change anytime soon, and expecting the group to become the new European Union is unrealistic.

Nevertheless, while acknowledging these limits, it is important to note that there is a growing awareness among the group's members of an ASEAN identity, especially in regard to the organization's relationship to the rest of the world. And the fifth ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), held in Jakarta May 19, suggests that security and defense are gaining ground as an area of common interest that may help to shape that identity.

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