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East Asia and the Pacific: A FMF/ Section 1206 Comparison June 4, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Recent events in East Asia and the Pacific have dominated the national security conversation. Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned this week over his unrealized campaign promise to move the US Futenma Marine Air Station off the southern island of Okinawa. The sinking of a South Korean warship in March has had everyone paying closer attention to the Korean peninsula and the region as a whole.

Yet, US security assistance initiatives in East Asia and the Pacific do not center on Japan or Korea although they are among our closest allies. This rationale centers on the permanence of US military bases in the region and that these countries have large, robust economies that can provide for their own security needs. US security assistance instead focuses on the Philippines and Indonesia, primarily to support counterterrorism capabilities, maritime and border security, and military reform.

As the graphic indicates, from FY2006-2009, the Philippines and Indonesia received 80% of total FMF/Section 1206 funds to the region. In the case of State’s FMF account, the Philippines received 68% of the regional FMF total, followed by Indonesia with 19%. For DOD’s Section 1206 authority, comparable amounts of funds were provided to Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia; no other country in East Asia or the Pacific received Section 1206 funds. Malaysia was the only recipient of Section 1206 funds that did not also receive FMF funds.

For regional experts, this comes as little surprise. In the case of the Philippines, bilateral military cooperation has been in full swing since 2003. The US has significantly increased security assistance to combat the terrorist threat (e.g., Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf) and criminal activity. Deepening US involvement in counterterrorism efforts has certainly upped the ante, including US direct military support in 2002 and 2005 to weaken Abu Sayyaf’s influence mainly in Mindanao. FMF and Section 1206 funds have been part of that effort, including bolstering maritime security measures in the Sulu island chain where Abu Sayyaf has had a presence.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has become an increasingly important geo-political actor in the region to address militant Islamist extremists and participate in counterterrorism security organizations. The Bush Administration lifted restrictions on security assistance in 2005, normalizing the military-to-military relationship. Military cooperation has since included maritime operations in the Malacca Straits to monitor terrorist or pirate activity, among others.

Worth noting is Malaysia’s quiet yet continued participation in regional counterterrorism efforts and maritime security. Malaysia is not a recipient of US development and economic aid, nor does it receive FMF funds, but it has received small amounts of other traditional US security assistance funds (NADR, IMET) for antiterrorism and nonproliferation activities, in addition to Section 1206 funds, mainly for maritime security (which have the bonus value of adding to ongoing Malaysian efforts to secure sea lanes and strait passage, govern border sea regions, and combat piracy).

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