Southeast Asia: Patterns of security cooperation by Carl Thayer

By Carl Thayer

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Defence industry sources have revealed that Indonesia will acquire C-802 and C-705 anti‑ship missiles from China for mounting on its frigates and fast patrol boats. Indonesia’s four new Diponegoro-class (Sigma) corvettes also will be equipped with MBDA MM40 Exocet Block II missiles. Vietnam’s military modernisations and arms acquisitions deserve special attention as they are obviously in response to China’s military modernisation and naval reach into the South China Sea. Vietnam appears to be taking a leaf out of China’s playbook and developing its own area-denial/anti‑access capabilities.

30 ASPI Strategy Chapter 4 Key tensions This chapter explores five clusters of tensions in Southeast Asia generated by the impact of the security trends identified in Chapter 2. Those tensions have been generated by maritime disputes in the South China Sea, China’s military modernisation, diffusion of military technology, ‘everyday domestic security issues’, and the persistence of transnational security threats. Maritime tensions in the South China Sea The South China Sea forms a central component of the Southeast Asian region.

China’s lack of transparency has raised legitimate questions about its strategic intentions. A key question is the staying power of the United States and its willingness to maintain the balance of power in the maritime domain, including in the South China Sea. The United States has responded to China’s naval build-up by deploying thirty-one of its fifty-three fast attack submarines to the Pacific. Eighteen of these subs are home-ported in Pearl Harbor; others are based in Guam. The United States has also deployed three Ohio-class nuclear submarines (‘boomers’) to the Asia–Pacific Indian Ocean region.

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