Lets Talk About APTO (Asia Pacific Treaty Organization)

By | April 2, 2017

China’s rise in the world arena has now begun to challenge the traditional power equations. Its flourishing economy, rising incomes and a huge defense expenditure has provided it a platform to challenge the US dominance in the world. As it rises on the world arena, it is poised to ruffle many feathers, mainly in its neighborhood. This trend is more than evident.

China, from its north-eastern extremity, has territorial disputes with almost all of its neighbors. From the East China Sea dispute with Japan, the South China Sea disputes with many ASEAN nations and the land boundary dispute with India, China has been assertively flexing its muscles. These have led to many minor skirmishes in the South China Sea, with the ones with Philippines and Vietnam being quite evident. Its own Nine dash line declares Chinese sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea, from which, more than $5 trillion of global trade passes.

The rejection of the ruling of International Tribunal in an arbitration case on South China Sea, which went against its expansive interests, has shown China’s contempt for established global rules. It is conspicuous that China was shedding its status quoist stance on world affairs and adopting a more revisionist stance. This assertiveness of  Chinese has compelled  other Asian nations to look towards USA to provide a counter balance to this Chinese assertiveness. But, since the US is looking to turn isolationist and more inward looking, a more pro-active America seems less than forthcoming. In this situation, the Asia Pacific nations, should develop a collective security system on the lines of NATO.

NATO was formed after the end of World War 2 to formulate a collective security system against the rise of Soviet Union. It was a collective security system among the North Atlantic and Western European nations. It is a collective defence system, whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by an external party. Such an organization is the need of the hour in Asia Pacific.

Asia Pacific Treaty Organization (APTO)

China has grown into a huge economic and military power house. It is the second largest economy in the world with one of the largest standing armies. Rest of the economies in the region are comparatively small and cannot match the growing power differential. A collective defence strategy, however can. Put together, India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore can grow into a great economic and military organization. This security architecture, anchored around the limited role the US can play, might act as a regional counterpoise to the Chinese aggressive postures.

Let us have a look at the defense budgets of the countries:

Country

Defense Budget ($, billion)

China

215

India

53

Japan

41

South Korea

36

Australia

23.6

Indonesia

7.6

Singapore

10

Vietnam

5

Malaysia

3.6

 

As it is evident, the combined budget of all these countries cannot match up with the overall defence budget of China. However, synergic development, joint military and naval exercises can provide an effective deterence to Chinese muscle flexing.

This arrangement will not be easy to come. There would be resistance from the Chinese, as well as domestic political pressures will be against such huge military arrangement. But, the contempt with which China is treating its neighbors and trying to expand its boundaries, it only reminds of the World War 2 era Germany, which wreacked havoc on the European countries in search of Lebensraum. Such threat seams distant, but APTO is an idea which needs a serious reckoning today.

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