Section 8. Situation in Other Southeast Asian Countries


The Southeast Asian countries other than those in the Indochina Peninsula were compelled to respond to the drastic changes in the international situation, such as the Sino-American rapprochement which began with President Nixon's visit to China, the normalization of relations between Japan and China and the Vietnam cease-fire. The Vietnam cease-fire, in particular, is considered as harboring the great possibility of upsetting the balance among the great powers in Southeast Asia, thereby exerting an influence on the domestic affairs and diplomacy of the countries in that region.


1. Attitudes of various countries toward the situation after the Vietnam cease-fire


The Southeast Asian countries other than those in the Indochina Peninsula had many serious misgivings about the future security of their own countries and of Southeast Asia in connection with the U.S. policy of reducing its military presence in that region under the Nixon doctrine. These countries did not have any official channels for seeking mutual understanding with China, including the establishment of diplomatic relations. And, they were more or less troubled by Communist guerrilla activities. While fearing that guerrilla activities might intensify as a result of the Vietnam cease-fire, these countries were still unable to find effective means to cope with them. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union expressed its interest in the Southeast Asian countries by flying a trial balloon after the Brezhnev speech of March 1972 on his idea of Asian collective security.

In this situation, the countries of Southeast Asia have the common concern that their region might be seriously affected by the Sino-Soviet confrontation and changes in the power relationships among the major countries. Laborite administrations were inaugurated in Australia and New Zealand toward the end of 1972, and the two countries adopted new diplomatic policies, including the recognition of the People's Republic of China in December 1972. As a result, there were indications that the character of the military arrangements mainly intended for Southeast Asia, such as SEATO and the five-nation defense arrangement of which both Australia and New Zealand are members, might change. The Southeast Asian countries were being compelled to review their own national security by taking these factors into consideration.


2. Moves of ASEAN nations


It can be said that the declaration of martial law in the Philippines (in September 1972) and the effectuation of its new Constitution (in January 1973), the Razak Government's attempts to strengthen itself in Malaysia, and the promulgation of the provisional Constitution and the shift to civil administration in Thailand, were intended, at least secondarily, to cope with the changing international situation by strengthening their respective domestic setups.

Meetings of ASEAN members at various levels, including the fifth ASEAN ministerial conference in April, were held in 1972. In February 1973, the ASEAN nations held an extraordinary meeting of their foreign ministers in the wake of the Vietnam cease-fire. The meeting discussed the situation in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam cease-fire and proposed the holding of a 10-nation conference of ASEAN members, the Indochina countries and Burma.

Prior to the proposal, Burma issued a Government statement on the Vietnam cease-fire (in January 1973) showing that it was not necessarily negative toward regional cooperation in Southeast Asia, and this was carefully noted.


3. Increased exchanges with China


Various countries, except Indonesia, carried out active exchanges with the People's Republic of China. For instance, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Burma took part in the first Asian table tennis championship meet held in Peking (in September 1972), and Thailand and Malaysia sent government leaders to China.

The countries of Southeast Asia also increased their contacts with the socialist countries other than China, as Malaysian Prime Minister Abdul Razak's visit to the Soviet Union (in September 1972) and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (in March 1973) showed.


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