Asia must build a new strategic equilibrium in the face of lingering uncertainty and rising challenges, Thailand’s junta chief told a security forum in Singapore on Friday.
The lack of clarity produced by a post-Cold War multipolar order, combined with the manifold security challenges Asia faces today – including the South China Sea, North Korea, terrorism, cybersecurity, irregular migration, and climate change – has created the need for a new strategic equilibrium, Prayut Chan-o-cha said during a keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue. While he did not define exactly what this equilibrium meant, he appeared to suggest some sort of stability both at the domestic as well as the regional level.
“We need to find a suitable equilibrium as soon as possible. Otherwise those of us who have a direct duty to maintain security will have failed,” he told the audience over dinner at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense summit.
To create such an equilibrium, Prayut said countries should pursue common goals like peace and prosperity but think beyond national boundaries and traditional notions of security given the transnational nature of challenges in a globalized world. He also said that problems should also be addressed through understanding, cooperation, and support and encouragement – particularly for countries facing internal issues like Thailand.
He also called for a “paradigm shift” from confrontation to collaboration, where countries would move from conflict to harmony; zero-sum to positive-sum outcomes; and common interests to shared values. Prayut said the paradigm shift ought to be built on the foundation of the “Three Ms”: mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit.
“Every country should make a paradigm shift…and leave no one behind,” he said.
Prayut went on to outline seven ways through which countries could pursue this new equilibrium, including promoting mutual trust and confidence; creating supporting partnerships; not choosing sides; and encouraging cooperation among major powers.
He also added that the international community ought to help Thailand achieve its own equilibrium as that would in turn help bolster the equilibrium in Southeast Asia as well as the Asia-Pacific more generally. Doing so, Prayut argued, would require time as well as trust and respect from other countries, including by not imposing their own ideologies on Thailand as a prerequisite for cooperation.
“So Thailand’s equilibrium and resilience will help maintain and protect ASEAN’s equilibrium which will be vital towards creating a new strategic equilibrium in the Asia-Pacific,” he said.