Great power competition today, which primarily features rivalry between China and the United States (US) increasingly shows that boundaries between economics and security affairs are blurred. The region of Indo-Pacific today, have witnessed several dynamics in which economic agendas are used to widen spheres of influence. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are two interesting case studies where parties adopting similar principles have opted for two different set of response to the strengthened nexus between security and economy.
ASEAN was established with an idea to promote regional resilience in which Southeast Asian countries can manage regional stability with a primary purpose: to ensure that national priorities on development and economic growth are not interrupted by security challenges coming from dynamics between great powers. Such ideas have been long embedded in ASEAN institutional belief and its derivatives of mechanism for cooperation. To secure this belief, ASEAN countries have long employed a hedging strategy, especially by continuing economic engagement with China while enjoying US security support for the region. The strategy tends to rest on the assumptions that economic and security are different dimensions on each own that implies different dynamics of interaction. But ASEAN now also must contend with different views regarding how countries, particularly their partners, view the interaction between these two dimensions.
While ASEAN advocates the separation between security efforts and interest with economic interests and agenda in response to the increasing interlinkage between the two sectors, the ROK has embraced the “new” understanding of the intersection and even blurring boundaries between the economics and the security as part of their strategic outlook towards the Indo-Pacific region by embracing the term “economic security.” The ROK have cited how geopolitical and geoeconomics development have impacted the resilience of their supply-chain, a major object of reference for its survival. This difference between ASEAN and the ROK may potentially affect their policy preferences and limit potentials of cooperation. One may advocate for an inclusive regional outlook whilst the other a more exclusive regional order. This is despite both of them championing principles of openness and inclusivity.
This working paper explores the re-emergence of the concept of economic security in the Indo-Pacific through looking at how economic concerns become “securitized” as national security agenda or foreign policy priorities, or how they were “de-securitized” (downplayed), taking the context of ASEAN and the ROK. This paper embarks to explore the perceived threat from ASEAN and the ROK, if any, the logic behind the development of their Indo-Pacific Outlook/Strategy, and the rooms for cooperation or means to anticipate potential risks and clashes from dynamics around economic security framings.