New shapes of militarization in Southeast Asia: a threat or an opportunity for regional security?

Couverture ASE2020Éric FRÉCON

Based on budgets and military purchases, militarization would seem to be gaining ground across Southeast Asia. However, different ratios and statistics suggest that China is not the main factor to explain these acquisitions, mainly made up of old equipment. Moreover, military expenditure is not so worrying considering the proportion of the countries' GDP it represents. Furthermore, on the political scene, leadership is not only under the influence of military officers. In fact, there seems to be a different kind of militarization: on the one hand, police forces and coast-guards are increasingly involved, with bigger and bigger assets, in conducting missions that were previously given to the armed forces – especially at sea. There is thus no risk of escalation of violence. On the other hand, military actors are extending their activities by acting either like diplomats – through exercises – or like law enforcement agents and logistics forces, particularly in case of natural disasters.

Keywords: Southeast Asia, Armed Forces, Arms Race, China, Non-Traditional Security