A conventional explanation for the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) holds that it was an attempt on the part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to maintain US military engagement in Asia while tactically promoting cooperative relations with China in the post-Cold War era. This line of argument is associated with realism and neoliberalism. This article maintains that such an explanation is unsatisfactory, and seeks to offer a sounder explanation by employing a constructivist perspective. It argues that the interests and policies of the ASEAN countries which had led them to initiate the ARF were defined by what can be regarded as a norm of security cooperation in Asia. This norm contains two sets of ideational elements. The first is common security thinking fostered in the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Such thinking emphasizes efforts to achieve the security of the whole region through multilateral security cooperation, on the basis of the view that regional security is indivisible. The second element is a set of diplomatic norms associated with the ASEAN Way of diplomacy, which underline the Southeast Asian countries' commitment to the habit of dialogue and consultation. Today, the nature of the ARF may be disputed. Critics of the ARF assert that it is a mere 'talking shop' in which no significant measure to achieve security has been carried out. Yet only by understanding thoroughly the establishment process of the forum can a fair assessment be made of its significance. The research in this article concludes that the ARF should be seen as an arena for the development and practice of norms - in other words, a 'norm brewery'.
- ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)
- ASEAN Way
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- Cooperative security