Naval trends in ASEAN: is there a new arms race?
Jones, Frank Curtis
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Global military spending is decreasing. However this trend does not apply to some regions of the world, specifically Southeast Asia. This thesis describes the ongoing naval arms buildup in this region and examines why it is occurring when the rest of the world is decreasing military spending. Next, this thesis asks if this arms build-up is dangerous. Unlike many other arms races around the world, the Southeast Asian build-up is not particularly dangerous because of the parallel development of confidence and security building measures. I answer this question affirmatively and then examine the causes of this situation. Using three countries as case studies -- Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia -- I argue that a combination of three factors fuels an arms race. The three categories which drive a naval arms race are economic growth, changes in perceived threat, and prestige. Thai naval expenditures are affected by all three factors in roughly equal proportions. Singaporean expenditures are driven by economics and prestige considerations. Changes in Indonesian spending are the result of security and prestige considerations. The next question is whether the arms race is dangerous. Nations in the region have engaged in serious efforts to establish effective confidence and security building measures which have mitigated the negative effects of an arms race. As long as these efforts continue, there is little danger in the arms race degenerating into armed conflict.
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