Evolving Australian Approaches to Security Architectures in the Asia-Pacific
April 22, 2011
This paper was written for the Tokyo Foundation’s Asian Security Project as a first step of collaboration between the Foundation and the Australian National University. The project uses a three-tiered approach to analyze emerging security arrangements in the Asia-Pacific during the post–Cold-War era. Here, ANU Professors William T. Tow and Rikki Kersten discuss the evolution of Australian approaches to regional security politics, focusing on the period since 2008, when Kevin Rudd introduced the concept of an Asia-Pacific community.
This concept was not well received by other countries in the region, but the vision has survived. In 2010, for instance, the East Asia Summit decided to include the United States and Russia as members beginning in 2011. The Australian position in the regional security architecture has recently been shifting away from multilateral arrangements, such as EAS, though, and moving toward “minilateral” arrangements like the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States and Japan.
As long as China pursues a peaceful rise, security arrangements that China may regard as intending to contain it should be avoided. But if China opts to assert its interests through a powerful military buildup, those minilateral instruments could become more “NATO-like” in purpose and configuration. (Shoichi Katayama, Research Fellow and Project Manager)
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Australia and Japan are confronting a common strategic choice. Two decades after the end of the Cold War, both of them regard their respective bilateral defense alliances with the United States as fundamental to their own national security. Yet both view multilateral security politics as increasingly critical for regional stability. Recent Japanese and Australian prime ministers have advanced specific and controversial proposals for organizing multilateralism and community-building. Democratic Party of Japan leader and soon to be Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama introduced his East Asia Community (EAC) plan in late August 2009 to promote Japan’s identity as an East Asian state.  A little more than a year earlier Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for the formation of a broad Asia-Pacific Community (APc).  The former blueprint gained notoriety by implying that the United States might be excluded as a key player in East Asia; the latter was explicitly designed to ensure that the United States would be accorded precisely such a role. Neither plan gained substantial support with China, in particular, becoming suspicious of the EAC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations opposing the Australian initiative. The Americans were initially cool toward both initiatives but for different reasons in each case.
The evolution of the Australian proposal and the ramifications of its possible effects on regional multilateralism are assessed here. Critically examining how the APc was perceived by Australian policymakers and by those regional forces who opposed it may yield a greater understanding of how those miscalculations and misperceptions that accompanied its introduction and promotion could be avoided in future episodes of multilateral security politics.
Well over two years have passed since Rudd initially elucidated his vision for an APc. Calling for “strong and effective regional institutions” to address issues including security, terrorism, natural disasters, disease, trade, energy, and food, his proposal nevertheless suffered significant criticism at home and abroad. A benign interpretation of Rudd’s policy initiative was that it was merely designed to initiate a region-wide debate about regional order-building rather than to introduce a formal blueprint for implementing it.  More strident criticism focused on the Australian government’s lack of consultation with regional policy elites before introducing the proposal, Rudd’s failure to defer to uniquely regional characteristics when advancing an idea that looked suspiciously similar to the European Community concept, an Australian presumption that new institutions were required in place of existing ones that could otherwise evolve or adapt to community-building challenges and Australia’s need to recognize ASEAN’s traditional role as the “driver” or “pivot” for establishing wider regional cooperation. 
These shortcomings led to widespread Asian disdain of the Rudd government’s efforts to set in motion various components of the proposal. This included Asian diplomats and independent experts rejecting the idea of establishing an eminent persons group for conceptualizing a new region-wide institution at a Track 1.5 conference convened by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Sydney in early December 2009.  Australian proponents of the APc were frustrated by what they viewed as the ASEAN conference representatives’ misplaced determination to preserve that organization’s central role in regional institution-building notwithstanding their own countries’ sustained prioritization of state sovereignty as the paramount norm shaping their own foreign policies and ASEAN’s mixed track record in dealing with serious regional security dilemmas.  Regional analysts from China and the ASEAN states denounced Australia’s brand of architecture-building as “coming from outside the region” and lacking credibility, because the geography it embraced was far too large to develop any “common identity.”  In the aftermath of Rudd’s failure to convince ASEAN states, in particular, to support moves toward creating a new institution at Sydney, it was surmised that the APc would die a quiet death. 
Cross-Comparing the APc with the EAC
After receiving harsh criticism from commentators and tepid reactions from regional players, Rudd retuned his Asia-Pacific Community concept with pragmatism and intelligence in an address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in May 2009. Here Rudd showed the requisite deference to ASEAN as the lead institution in Asian regionalism, presenting the Asia-Pacific Community as “a natural broadening of the processes of confidence, security and community building in Southeast Asia led by ASEAN.”  His explicit references to ASEAN-centered institution-building sounded all the right notes, but Rudd nonetheless restated his view that existing institutions were too narrowly configured to serve the purposes of the twenty-first century and that active institution-building involving all major regional powers was required.
In this refined declaration of his foreign policy vision, Rudd seemed to anticipate the thrust of Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama’s own regional vision that followed in November 2009. Riding a wave of idealism and excitement after leading his party to victory in August 2009, Hatoyama wasted no time in setting forth his own vision for an EAC.  Unlike Rudd, Hatoyama had already sounded out his neighbors China and Korea during their Trilateral Summit meeting that year, signaling his firm intention to counterbalance Japan’s alliance with the US with Asia-first diplomacy. Hatoyama reinforced Japan’s role as a “future-shock” country for other Asian nations, observing that Japan had modernized earlier, putting it in a good position to assist its neighbors in tackling post-growth challenges. Significantly, Hatoyama, like Rudd, used Europe as a referent, pointing to the successful reconciliation between Germany and France that lay at the heart of community building in Europe. Hatoyama’s explicit reference to Japan’s aggression in the region 60 years before, coupled with his stated desire for genuine Asian reconciliation and distancing from the US, ensured that his proposal received positive attention from the region.
Hatoyama’s concept differed from Rudd’s, however, in that it proposed an informal and staged approach to a community. Most importantly, his version of a regional security community at least at the outset seemed to exclude the US. (He later backed down by issuing his own disclaimers and instructing his relevant ministers to soothe Washington’s initial concerns). Hatoyama proposed to follow a phased path starting with economic ties, then moving on through issue-based cooperation towards institutionalization. Clearly, in this context, Hatoyama’s idea was quite different from Rudd’s, and for a short while it was not clear whether Japan even welcomed Australia into the EAC. With Hatoyama embroiled in a stand-off with the US over force relocation within Okinawa in 2009 and 2010, it was increasingly evident that Japan’s regional vision was an integral part of a fundamental recalibration of Japan’s postwar alliance relationship with the US. Indeed, what few positive inclinations China entertained towards the EAS were linked to this premise. 
On the other hand, in 2005 Japan had successfully pushed for Australia along with India and New Zealand to become members of the East Asia Summit, partly in order to counterbalance China in the region. As will be discussed below, the real test for the effectiveness of Australia-Japan bilateral activism will occur in the ensuing decade, when both countries calibrate their national interest and regional vision as part of region-wide responses to the rise of China. More immediately, however, it is worth noting that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan made a remarkable and concerted effort to clearing away history obstacles in order to advance regional relationships and institution-building—if not leadership.  This trend can be viewed as a deliberate and considered policy choice, and one that is being made with the intent of opening up new possibilities for Japan in the region. It could also be interpreted as a Japanese effort to counterbalance growing Chinese power.
Predictions that the APc has died a quiet death may be premature. While the APc may no longer be on the region’s foreign policy agenda in its specifically proposed form, the substance of Rudd’s vision still seems very much alive. Even prior to his political disposal as Australia’s prime minister in June 2010 Rudd appeared to be backing off from promoting a strict constructivist APc vision as evidenced by a speech he delivered on China offered the previous April in which he “welcom(ed) the decision of ASEAN leaders at their summit in Hanoi on April 8–9 . . . to encourage the United States and Russia to deepen their engagement in evolving regional architecture” and “while the countries of the region will need to settle how reformed regional architecture might be constituted, the ASEAN Summit outcome offers a critical step forward to the architecture our region needs for the long-term future.”  While skeptical commentators interpreted this announcement as Rudd raising a white flag of acknowledgement to ASEAN primacy for regional architecture building, others argued that Australia’s APc elevated the debate about regional architecture-building to a new level and set the context for an expanded East Asia Summit to be realized.  As one Australian commentator subsequently asserted, “recent history suggests that the only way to goad ASEAN into making progress on regional architecture is to threaten to remove it from the driver’s seat of regional institutionalization.” 
Other Australian policy-makers sustained this approach but on a more subdued basis following Rudd’s dismissal from his country’s top political post. In responding to his Singaporean counterpart’s observation that Australia was by now “happy to leave ASEAN to discuss how that regional [architectural] configuration should evolve,” Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith noted that it was up to ASEAN to determine whether the East Asia Summit or a new ASEAN+8 configuration would emerge as the pan-Asian architecture of choice for regional security deliberations.  The Hanoi Declaration on the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the East Asia Summit released in late October 2010 confirmed that the former approach had prevailed: “the EAS with ASEAN as the driving force, working in close partnership with the other participants of the EAS, is an important component of the evolving regional architecture . . . and promotes community building efforts in East Asia.”  The key point from Canberra’s perspective was that the United States would be included in a strengthened EAS framework—a major factor that initially prompted Rudd to introduce the APc concept. Indeed, with Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House, it became clear that the United States was determined to reaffirm its status as a front-line power in Asia. In a landmark November 2009 address delivered in Tokyo, the president proclaimed that every American has “a stake in the future of this region, because what happens here has a direct effect on our lives at home.”  Smith rationalized Australia’s diplomatic posture on this issue as being far more consistent than its critics had acknowledged:
As one observer later asserted, whether merited or otherwise, Canberra’s position appeared to be that “whatever ASEAN does will be hailed as meeting Australia’s aims.” 
This perspective was buttressed in an unexpected way with the release of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks in early December 2010, which exposed the controversial dimensions of Rudd’s motivation for (and style in) promoting the APc. In a March 2009 meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rudd characterized his proposal as an initiative to check China’s growing dominance in regional diplomatic circles by ensuring that the United States was not marginalized during the process of Asian institution-building by a Chinese diplomatic Monroe Doctrine. However, this revelation evidently surprised Rudd’s special envoy for APc discussions, Richard Woolcott, who indicated that Rudd had always represented the APc to him as an instrument for engaging the Chinese rather than containing them.  US diplomatic cables revealed that US officials were critical of Rudd’s management of APc, indicating that not only were regional leaders caught off guard by his initiative but also that Australian diplomatic personnel were given little or no warning of the content in his speech delivered to the Asia Society in Sydney introducing the concept. Woolcott, Japanese Ambassador to Australia Takaaki Kojima, and various US diplomats all subsequently berated Rudd’s “top-down” and overly spontaneous style, while US Embassy officials in Canberra reportedly complained that the APc reflected his tendency to be “obsessed with managing the media cycle rather than engaging in collaborative decision-making.” 
Where to from Here?
With Kevin Rudd’s dismissal as Australia’s prime minister and the American entry into the EAS, the momentum underpinning the push for an APc seems to have dissipated. This is true despite Rudd’s subsequent appointment as Australia’s foreign minister and the fifth EAS Summit’s mandate tasking foreign ministers “to study ways to strengthen EAS follow-up and coordination mechanisms.”  Over the latter part of 2010 and the first months of 2011, moreover, multilateral security diplomacy appears increasingly preempted by China’s rising power and its increasingly assertive projection of its national interests throughout the region. In this context, now Foreign Minister Rudd, during a visit by Japan’s foreign minister, felt compelled to reject suggestions that Australia’s increasingly close security cooperation with Japan and the US (in the context of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and other instrumentalities) has been mainly precipitated by China’s military build-up:
In a speech delivered to the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research in Athens during early February 2011, moreover, Rudd seemed to designate the European Union as a role model for Asia-Pacific architectural development in a way similar to his praise of the EU found in the text of the June 2008 Sydney speech. Addressing his audience in Athens, Rudd asserted:
Despite such protestations, it is increasingly likely that Australia’s short-term “architectural agenda” will shift further away from emphasizing pan-Asian community-building ventures. It will instead move closer toward strengthening “multilateralism on the margins,” by calibrating Australia’s access to hard power and with its selective projection of “smart power” (through deriving judicious combinations of diplomacy and economic relations) and it will prioritize the development of “minilateral” instrumentalities for doing so. Accordingly, it will look to develop such existing arrangements as the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue involving Australia, Japan, and the United States. Rudd has signaled the importance of the TSD in a recent (November 2010) speech delivered to the Kokoda Foundation, observing, “the TSD complements and supports good regional architecture, it does not cut across the broader regional architecture.” He further noted that by not being bound to a designated secretariat, rules, or organizational structures, the TSD allows for maximum flexibility to be used by its affiliates at a time of their convenience and in ways that make it most responsive to their immediate needs. The foreign minister concluded, “I would expect that the next few years will see increasing cooperation between TSD partners as a natural consequence of our close relationship.” 
Rudd’s reasoning dovetails with that of US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In congressional testimony delivered in March 2011, Campbell noted that the US will “take ambitious steps” to increase trilateral cooperation “to further develop a more integrated Northeast Asia security architecture.” In his statement, Campbell anticipated the updating and more robust version of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group comprising Japan, South Korea, and the United States (formed in April 1999 to respond to developments in North Korea).  Noting that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had hosted her Japanese and South Korean counterparts at an inaugural Trilateral Ministerial Meeting (TMM) in December 2010, Campbell indicated that the “institutionalization of trilateral cooperation will be an important focus of US diplomatic efforts over the coming year.”  Australia will seek to become involved in this process via the TSD, both to exert what influence it can regarding the stabilization of the Korean Peninsula (Australia has formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, unlike Japan, the US, and South Korea) and to ensure it is a part of a trilateral process that now entails regular discussions on a wide range of Asia-Pacific security issues (Campbell noted that the TMM “affirmed the importance of unity and ways to enhance policy coordination on myriad issues, from ASEAN to North Korea”).
The imperative of sustaining peaceful and profitable bilateral ties with China, however, will continue to act as the key constraint to Australia engaging in uninhibited minilateralism with its established security partners and of being seen as becoming “too close” to joint US and Japanese security agendas in Northeast Asia. This reality was reinforced by China’s reaction to the proposed Quadrilateral Initiative during the last year of the John Howard government and the twilight period of the George W. Bush administration (the concept attracted particular attention during mid-2007). Along with then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (who was viewed by many observers as the real architect of the idea), Howard and US Vice-President Dick Cheney explored how this minilateral grouping—which would include India—might balance what all of them viewed as a substantial (if not alarming) growth of Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific. The Chinese government responded by sending a strong diplomatic note to all four countries (Australia, India, Japan, and the US) demanding to know why such an arrangement was under consideration and warning about efforts to contain China along Cold War lines.  For its part, Kevin Rudd’s new government explicitly rejected the initiative when it came to office, although it subsequently (in 2009) infuriated Beijing when it came out with a tough Defence White Paper warning against Chinese military capabilities. 
Australian policy will very likely continue to oscillate between projecting soft power in the region and bandwagoning with those most concerned about the implications of China’s rise. Australia will therefore continue to search for ways to underwrite the formation of pan-Asian multilateral architectures where it can relate positively to China on economic and selected diplomatic issues. How relevant the EAS turns out to be as a vehicle for Australian promotion of and participation within Asian multilateral security politics will hinge directly on the extent to which that organization will allow Canberra to sustain its traditional alliances without appearing to align against China as part of a “virtual security coalition” involving the US, Japan, and other traditional regional security partners. If China opts to assert strongly nationalistic postures throughout the region and to support its interests through a sustained and powerful military buildup, however, those minilateral instruments, such as the TSD, could be easily converted to arrangements that would be more “NATO-like” in purpose and configuration. It is notable that recent overtures by the Kan government to engage South Korea in more comprehensive arrangements for defense collaboration fits well into the type of minilateral security arrangements that were envisioned by those policy leaders promoting more explicit defense collaboration and which resulted in the Australia-Japan Joint Security Declaration (2007) and a similar Australia-South Korea agreement (2009). Avoiding an outcome where minilateralism destabilizes regional security rather than reinforcing it represents one of the most significant policy challenges confronting both Australia and Japan over the next few years.
 Ryo Sahashi, “Hatoyama’s New Path and Washington’s Anxiety,” East Asia Forum , September 6, 2009, www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/09/06/hatoyamas-new-path-and-washingtons-anxiety/ (accessed March 9, 2011).
 Full text of Kevin Rudd’s speech to the Asia Society Australasia, The Australian , June 5, 2008.
 Gareth Evans, “Asia Pacific Regional Security Architecture,” Panel Presentation to the Global Policy Forum, Yaroslavl, Russia, September 9, 2010, www.gevans.org/speeches/speech422.html (accessed March 7, 2010).
 Tommy Koh, “Rudd’s Reckless Regional Rush,” The Australian , December 18, 2009.
 The former problem of sovereign primacy is addressed in a volume written by two Singapore analysts, Sree Kumar and Sharon Saddique, Southeast Asia : The Diversity Dilemma. How Intra-Regional Contradictions and External Forces Are Shaping Southeast Asia Today (Singapore: Select, 2008). For salient commentary on this work, see Anthony Milner, “Analysing Asian Regionalism: What Is an “Architectural” Perspective?” Australian Journal of International Affairs , 65(1) 2011: 112, 115.
 Anthony Milner, Zhu Liqun, Tan Seng Chye, and Prapat Thepchatree, “Regionalism: An Asian Conversation: Three Viewpoints,” Asialink Essays , 2(4) 2010: 9, 13.
 Rudd’s successor, Julie Gillard, observed in early July 2010 that she did not see “the degree of movement” toward regional community-building that Rudd had hoped to cultivate and that the APc no longer enjoyed the status as a key foreign policy initiative in the Labor government. See Peter Hartcher, “Gillard Rejects Rudd’s Asia Vision,” Sydney Morning Herald , July 5, 2010. Also see “Rudd’s Asia Pacific Community Idea Under Threat,” Radio Australia: Asia , July 5, 2010, www.radioaustralia.net.au/asiapac/stories/201007/s2945375.htm (accessed 8 March 2010); Andrew Shearer, “The APC is a Dead Parrot,” Caixin Online , July 20, 2010, www.lowyinstitute.org/Publication.asp?pid=1349 (accessed 10 March 2011).
 Kevin Rudd, keynote address at the eighth IISS Asian Security Summit (Shangri-la Dialogue), Singapore, May 29, 2009, www.iiss.org/conferences/the-shangri-la-dialogue/shangri-la-dialogue-2009/plenary-session-speeches-2009/opening-remarks-and-keynote-address/keynote-address-kevin-rudd/ (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Speeches and statements by the prime minister, Address by H.E. Dr Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan, “Japan’s New Commitment to Asia: Toward the Realization of an East Asian Community,” November 15, 2009, Singapore, www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hatoyama/statement/200911/15singpore_e.html (accessed March 10, 2011).
 John Hemmings, “Understanding Hatoyama’s East Asia Community Idea,” East Asia Forum , January 22, 2010, www/eastasiaforum.org (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Kevin Rudd, “Australia and China in the World: 70th Morrison Lecture,” Australian National University, Canberra, April 23, 2010, http://pmrudd.archive.dpmc.gov.au/node/6700 (accessed March 8, 2011).
 Criticism is exemplified by Graeme Dobbell’s “Rudd to ASEAN: You Win,” The Interpreter , 28 April 2010 www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2010/04/28/Rudd-to-ASEAN-You-win.aspx (accessed March 8, 2011). Praise is offered by Aaron Connelly, “Canberra’s Clouseau Strategy,” The Interpreter, January 5, 2011, www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2011/01/05/Canberras-Clouseau-strategy.aspx (accessed March 8, 2011) and by Evans, “Asia-Pacific Regional Security Architecture.”
 Connelly, “Canberra’s Clouseau Strategy.”
 “Australia’s Plan for Asia Pacific Community Under a Cloud,” Radio Australia Asia , June 18, 2010, www.radioaustralia.net.au/asiapac/stories/201006/s2931105.htm (accessed March 8, 2011).
 Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Ha Noi Declaration on the Commemoration of the Fifth Anniversary of the East Asia Summit,” Hanoi Vietnam, October 30, 2010, www.dfat.gov.au/asean/eas/ha_noi_declaration.html (accessed March 8, 2011).
 Washington Wire, “Text of Obama’s Tokyo Address,” Suntory Hall, Tokyo, 14 November 2009 at http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/11/13/text-of-obamas-tokyo-address/ (accessed on March 10, 2011).
 “Extended Interview with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith,” Radio Australia Asia , June 29, 2010, www.radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia/stories/201006/s2939721.htm (accessed March 8, 2011).
 Graeme Dobbell, “Rudd in Asia: One Last Kick in the Guts,” The Interpreter , June 30, 2010, www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2010/06/30/APc-One-last-kick-in-the-guts-to-Rudd.aspx (accessed March 8, 2011).
 Paul Maley, “Kevin Rudd’s Plan to Contain Beijing,” The Australian , December 5, 2010.
 Philip Dorling, “Rudd’s Man Knocked His Asia Plan,” Sydney Morning Herald , December 24, 2010.
 Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “The East Asia Summit,” www.dfat.gov.au/asean/eas/index.html (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Kevin Rudd, “Joint Press Conference,” November 23, 2010, www.foreignminister.gov.au/transcripts/2010/kr_tr_101123_joint_pc.html (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Kevin Rudd, “Australian Foreign Policy and Recent Developments in the Middle East,” Speech at the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, Athens, Greece, February 2, 2011, www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2011/kr_sp_110202.html (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Kevin Rudd, “Australia’s Perspectives on Trilateral Security Cooperation in the Western Pacific,” Speech to the Kokoda Foundation Australia-US-Japan trilateral seminar dinner, November 18, 2010, www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2010/kr_sp_101118a.html (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Remarks of Kurt M. Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “U.S. Policy toward North Korea,” Washington, DC, March 1, 2011. Background on the TCOG is provided by James L. Schoff, First Interim Report: The Evolution of the TCOG as a Diplomatic Tool (Cambridge, MA: Institute of Foreign Policy Analysis, November 2004), www.ifpa.org/pdf/updateTCOG.pdf (accessed March 10, 2011).
 Campbell, “U.S. Policy toward North Korea.”
 Brahma Chelleney, “’Quad Initiative’: An Inharmonious Concert of Democracies,” Japan Times , July 19, 2007.
 Dr John Lee, “Rudd Deserves Points for Confronting Some Brutal Truths,” Crikey , December 6, 2010, www.crikey.com.au/2010/12/06/rudd-deserves-points-for-confronting-some-brutal-truths/ (accessed March 10, 2011).