- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

The 19th ASEAN Regional Forum: Background on the Issues

By Ann Jung
July 9, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Cambodia this week to participate in the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh along with China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, and other top officials in the region. The ARF will gather representatives from 27 different nations to discuss peace and security issues in the region, including regional disaster relief cooperation, maritime security, disarmament, and anti-terrorism.

At the ARF Senior Officials’ Meeting this past May, discussions were reportedly held about the democratization process in Myanmar, tensions on the Korean peninsula, and disputes in the South China Sea, foreshadowing the major topics to be discussed at this year’s forum.

Over the past two years, NBR has partnered with scholars to conduct research on maritime security in Southeast Asia. Recent publications highlight various aspects of the South China Sea issue and point to the political, legal, military, economic, and energy issues surrounding the on-going dispute.

In the NBR Special Report "Maritime Energy Resources in Asia: Energy and Geopolitics" (December 2011), principal investigator Clive Schofield (University of Wollongong, Australia) and other researchers discuss energy security challenges faced by the states of East and Southeast Asia bordering the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Gulf of Thailand.

In this report, Ian Storey’s "Asia’s Changing Balance of Military Power: Implications for the South China Sea Dispute" (free through July 31, 2012) highlights the shifting balance of military power in the region due to the South China Sea dispute and emphasizes the importance of Confidence Building Measures among involved nations to prevent potential clashes.

The NBR Special Report "Maritime Energy Resources in Asia: Legal Regimes and Cooperation" (February 2012) delves deeper into the South China Sea issue by investigating internal legal challenges and developments that affect the maritime jurisdictional disputes.

In "Maritime Cooperation in a Functional Perspective"(free through July 31, 2012), Ian Townsend-Gault asserts that maritime sources can only be properly managed and utilized in the current state when disputing nations make a collective effort to cooperate in the absence of boundaries.

The NBR Energy Security Program’s 2011 report on "Asia’s Rising Energy and Resource Nationalism" (free through July 31, 2012) examines if there is a connection between energy insecurity and state efforts to control major sea lanes, the impact of Asia’s national oil companies on the global industry, and the emergence of rare earth elements as an arena for national competition. The report provides an assessment of major risks emanating from Asia’s growing energy insecurity and identifies opportunities for strengthening regional collaboration.

In the NBR Special Report "From Disputed Waters to Seas of Opportunity: Overcoming Barriers to Maritime Cooperation in East and Southeast Asia" (July 2011), Clive Schofield, Ian Townsend-Gault, Hasjim Djalal, Ian Storey, Meredith Miller, and Tim Cook assess jurisdictional disputes and opportunities for cooperation in East and Southeast Asia.

Read a Q&A with Ian Story following the ASEAN Regional Forum on July 11–12, 2012: ASEAN and the South China Sea: Deepening Divisions.