The great tsunami of December 26, 2004, which took a quarter of a million lives in Southeast and South Asia, provided an overwhelming demonstration of the basic frailty of human security even in an era of high technology and nearly instant communication. The combined toll from natural disasters, disease, and persistent poverty even in the midst of impressive growth undermines the most fundamental sense of human security virtually throughout the Asia Pacific region.
A number of more traditional security issues are also contributing to a generally more uncertain and potentially volatile security outlook for 2005. These include the continuing slow-motion crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program and other potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; further terrorist attacks combined with the forces of radical Islamism and regional rebellion that threaten numerous countries in the region; and some stresses in the relations of major regional powers including China’s relations with the United States (especially over Taiwan) and Japan. On the positive side, the governments of the region are engaged in an intense and virtually continuous dialogue over regional security issues, and practical steps are being taken to strengthen cooperation such as in patrolling the Strait of Malacca in addition to the impressive regional and international response to the tsunami. Still, the most pervasive elements of the security outlook for the coming year is the sheer unpredictability of events.
This ninth annual edition of the Asia Pacific Security Outlook provides assessments of the security environment, defense issues, and regional and global cooperation from the perspectives of countries that participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum. Based on the work and expertise of a multinational team of security analysts and written for generalists and specialists alike, the Outlook is the most concise and authentic comparative work in this field. It also includes thematic essays on human security and the peace process in South Asia.