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G2S2 Lecture – Amb. Pou Sothirak : ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific

By 08/26/2019No Comments

08/12/2019?Great Power Practice in International Organization and Global Governance?

Lecture Topic: ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges

Class taken by Amb. Pou Sothirak

The adoption of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) is strategic momentum for ASEAN countries to reinforce ASEAN centrality amid the growing competition between the United States and China in the region. AOIP is an ASEAN Way of engaging all the powers to promote cooperation based on existing ASEAN Mechanisms. However, “While the AOIP depicts renewed solidarity among ASEAN leaders amidst the rapid geopolitical shifts that have emerged in recent years, the Outlook falls short as a meaningful initiative that could re-shape the existing regional politico-security architecture to ensure deeper institutionalization of ASEAN centrality among member states,” said Executive Director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace Ambassador Pou Sothirak at the G2S2 Lecture on August 12, 2019.

Amb. Southirak observed that the official document of the AOIP fails to identify perception of threats and challenges to ASEAN countries. It has no specific strategy about how ASEAN intend to deal with enforcement and compliance aspects of its security mechanism. In contrast, the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy identifies visibly the threats and challenges to the wider Indo-Pacific region and articulate various mechanisms to protect the U.S. interests. The fear is that if the FOIP strategy takes shape and form, the world will suck into U.S.-China rivalry. Amb. Sothirak suggested individual country in Southeast Asia to choose between balancing, bandwagoning, or hedging in response to the rivalry. Additionally, the AOIP should be addressed in concrete terms if ASEAN wants to control geopolitical changes in the Indo-Pacific. Although the AOIP document appears to be a smart way to project ASEAN Vision in the wider context of the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN must impress their major external partners at the next East Asia Summit (EAS) by fundamentally readjusting the existing Outlook to make it clearer, smarter, and deeper.