Skip to main content

Asia’s Security Triangles: Maritime Minilateralism in the Indo-Pacific

Abstract

Since the early years of the twenty-first century, a number of key regional governments have consciously chosen to alter the way they talk about the region, and have now largely shifted from using the ‘Asia-Pacific’ to the ‘Indo-Pacific’ construct. But after three decades of utilising the ‘Asia-Pacific’ concept, why has this been the case and how might this shift in geographical conceptualisation alter the strategic framework of the region? This paper argues that the ‘Indo-Pacific’ is a regional reconceptualisation utilised by Japan, Australia, India and the USA to address deficiencies in Asia’s maritime security and institutional architecture, which are being simultaneously influenced by a more assertive Chinese posture and waning U.S. influence. Additionally, the Indo-Pacific concept has developed in tandem with a transformation in the regional security architecture. The utilisation of maritime minilateralism between Japan, India, Australia and the USA supplements Asia’s bilateral American alliances, with an array of trilateral security dialogues or ‘security triangles’. The Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific shift is really an instance of an emerging minilateral security regionalism, rather than the predominant forms of bilateral and multilateral security and economic regionalism that have dominated Asia in recent decades.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Abe, S. (2006) Towards of Beautiful Country: My Vision for Japan, New York: Vertical.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Abe, S. (2007) “Confluence of the Two Seas’ – Speech by H. E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan at the Parliament of the Republic of India, 22 August’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/pmv0708/speech-2.html

  3. Abe, S. (2012) 'Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond', Project Syndicate, December 27.

  4. Acharya, A. (2001) Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order, London: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Aso, T. (2006) ‘Arc of Freedom and Prosperity: Japan’s Expanding Diplomatic Horizons’, Minister of Foreign Affairs, November 30, Tokyo: Japan Institute of International Affairs Summit.

  6. Attina, F. (2010) ‘Global Power Competition and the Rise of Minilateralism in Peace Operations’, in D. Imera and F. Attina (eds.), Multilateral Security and ESDP Operations, London: Ashgate Publishing, pp. 19–34.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Auslin, M. (2012) ‘The Struggle For Power in the Indo-Pacific’, Turkish Policy Quarterly, 10(3), 145–151.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Australia-Japan-US Joint Statement (2015) Japan-United States-Australia Defence Ministers Meeting, May 30, Canberra: Minister for Defence.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Australia-Japan-US Joint Statement (2016) Japan-United States-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, July 25, Canberra: Minister for Foreign Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bisley, N. (2007) ‘Asian Security Architectures’ in A. J. Tellis and M. Wills (eds.), Strategic Asia: Domestic Political Change and Grand Strategy, Washington: National Bureau of Asian Research.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bisley, N. (2016) ‘Indo-Pacific: The Maritime and the Continental’, ASPI, November 21.

  12. Brewster, D. (2010) ‘The Australia-India Security Declaration: The Quadrilateral Redux?’, Security Challenges, 6(1), 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Brewster, D. (2016) ‘Security in the Indo-Pacific Needs India’s Helping Hand’, The Wire, September 5. https://thewire.in/64160/trilateral-security-the-best-option-for-indo-pacific-relations/

  14. Buzan, B. and O. Waever (2003) Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  15. Buzan, B. (2011) ‘The South Asian Security Complex in a Decentring World Order: Reconsidering Regions and Powers Ten Years On’, International Studies, 48(1), 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Carter, A. (2016), ‘The Rebalance and Asia-Pacific Security: Building a Principled Security Network’, Foreign Affairs, 95(6), November/December.

  17. Cha, V. D. (2010) ‘Powerplay: Origins of the US Alliance System in Asia’, International Security, 34(3), 158–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Chellaney, B. (2008) ‘Obstacles to Overcome in the Development of a Concert of Asia-Pacific Democracies’, The Japan Times, February 20. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20080220bc.html

  19. Clinton, H. (2010) ‘America’s Engagement in the Asia-Pacific’, 28 October, U.S. Department of State, Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Department of Defence (Australia) (2013) Defence White Paper 2013, Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Department of Defence (Australia) (2016) Defence White Paper 2013, Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Department of State (United States) (2015) ‘Inaugural U.S.-India-Japan Trilateral Ministerial Dialogue’, 29 September, Washington.

  23. Dirlik, A. (1998) ‘The Asia-Pacific Idea: Reality and Representation in the Invention of a Regional Structure’, in A. Dirlik (ed.), What Is in a Rim? Critical Perspectives on the Pacific Region Idea, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 15–36.

    Google Scholar 

  24. George, V. K. (2015) ‘India, U.S., Japan say Interests in Indo-Pacific Converge’, The Hindu, October 1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/trilateral-meeting-of-foreign-ministers-of-india-united-states-and-japan/article7708442.ece

  25. Green, M. J. (2011) ‘Japan, India & the Strategic Triangle with China’, in A. J. Tellis, T. Tanner and J. Keough (eds.), Asia Responds to its Rising Powers: China and India, Washington: National Bureau of Asian Research, pp. 131–160.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Green, M. J. (2014) ‘Strategic Asian Triangles’ in S. Pekkanen, J. Ravenhill & R. Foot (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the International Relations of Asia, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Grossman, M. (2005) ‘The Tsunami Core Group: A Step Toward a Transformed Diplomacy in Asia and Beyond’, Security Challenges, 1(1).

  28. Haider, S. (2015) ‘India-Japan-Australia forum not anti-China: Peter Varghese’, The Hindu, June 9. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chinas-actions-cause-for-concern-australia/article7295709.ece

  29. Hall, I. (2017) ‘The Australia–India–Japan trilateral: converging interests and converging perceptions?’, The Strategist, March 17.

  30. Hu, R. W. (2009) Building Asia-Pacific Regional Architecture: The Challenge of Hybrid Regionalism, Washington: The Brookings Institution, Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Ikenberry, G. J. (2001) After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major War, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. India-Japan (2006) ‘Joint Statement Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership’, 15 December, Tokyo.

  33. Khurana, G. (2007) ‘Security of Sea Lines: India-Japan Cooperation’, Strategic Analysis, 31:1, 139–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lang, D. (2015) ‘The Not-Quite-Quadrilateral: Australia, Japan & India’, ASPI Strategic Insights Series, July.

  35. Lang, D. (2015a) ‘Security interests draw Japan, Australia and India closer’, Japan Times, July 8. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/07/08/commentary/japan-commentary/security-interests-draw-japan-australia-india-closer/

  36. Mearsheimer, J. J. (1994) ‘The False Promise of International Institutions’, International Security, 19(3), 5–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Medcalf, R. (2014) ‘In Defence of the Indo-Pacific: Australia's New Strategic Map’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68(4), 470–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Miller, J. B. (2016) ‘US-Japan-India Trilateral Relations: Opportunities and Challenges’, The Asan Forum, December 8.

  39. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan) (2017) ‘Japan-Australia-India Trilateral Dialogue Senior Officials Meeting’, 29 April, Canberra, Australia.

  40. Modi, N. (2016) ‘PM Narendra Modi’s Speech in US Congress’, The Indian Express, June 10.

  41. Mohan, C. R. and R. Medcalf (2017) ‘Delhi, Tokyo, Canberra: They Could Build the First of Multiple Middle Power Coalitions for Regional Resilience in Trump’s World’, The Indian Express, February 10.

  42. Mulgan, A. G. (2008) ‘Breaking the Mould: Japan’s Subtle Shift from Exclusive Bilateralism to Modest Minilateralism’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 30(1), 52–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Nagao, S. (2015) ‘The Japan-India-Australia “Alliance” as Key Agreement in the Indo-Pacific’, ISPSW Strategy Series, No. 375, September.

  44. Naim, M. (2009) ‘Minilateralism: The magic number to get real international action’, Foreign Policy, June 21.

  45. Pan, C. (2014) ‘The ‘Indo-Pacific’ and Geopolitical Anxieties About China’s Rise in the Asian Regional Order, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68(4), 456–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Phillips, A. (2016) ‘From Hollywood to Bollywood?: Recasting Australia’s Indo/Pacific Strategic Geography’, Strategy, ASPI.

  47. Raghuvanshi, V. (2015) ‘Japan To Join Malabar as Permanent Participant’, Defense News, October 13. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/navy/2015/10/13/japan-join-malabar-permanent-participant/73828110/

  48. Ravenhill, J. (2001) APEC and the Construction of Pacific Rim Regionalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rogin, J. (2011) ‘Inside the First Ever US-Japan-India Trilateral Meeting’, Foreign Policy, December 23.

  50. Sahashi, R. (2009) ‘Conceptualising the Three-Tier Approach to Analyse the Security Arrangements in the Asia-Pacific’, Working Paper 415, Canberra: Strategic & Defence Studies Center.

  51. Sharma, A. (2010) ‘The Quadrilateral Initiative: An Evaluation’, South Asian Survey, 17(2), 237–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Tillerson, R. (2017) ‘Remarks on Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century’, 18 October, CSIS, Washington D.C. https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/10/274913.htm

  53. Tow, W. (2009) ‘Assessing the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue’, East Asia Forum, February 12.

  54. White, H. (2016) ‘The Indo-Pacific: Talking About It Doesn’t Make It Real’. ASPI, November 22.

  55. Yoshihara, T. (2013) ‘The US Navy’s Indo-Pacific Challenge’, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 9(1), 90–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Troy Lee-Brown.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lee-Brown, T. Asia’s Security Triangles: Maritime Minilateralism in the Indo-Pacific. East Asia 35, 163–176 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12140-018-9290-9

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12140-018-9290-9

Keywords

  • Indo-Pacific
  • Regionalism
  • Minilateralism
  • Security architecture
  • Maritime Asia