"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense.
The Asian-Pacific Council (ASPAC) emerged from a Republic of Korea diplomatic initiative in September 1964. Australia, the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan), Japan, the ROK, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and the Republic of Vietnam were founding members. Laos opted for observer status. None of the member states were Communist, and nearly all were allied with the United States (except for Malaysia, an ally of Britain, Australia, and New Zealand); most were contributing troops to the war in Vietnam (except for Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan); and to varying degrees all perceived the People's Republic of China (PRC) as a threat.
From its inception, ASPAC had to accommodate competing visions concerning the nature and functions of the organisation. In practice, however, ASPAC became an informal consultative forum on regional problems, including economic, social, cultural, political, and security issues. ASPAC's demise was a product of the PRC's emergence from the self-induced isolation of the Cultural Revolution. The group formally disbanded following the fall of Saigon in May 1975.
Does ASPAC represent a false start or a lost opportunity in the institutional history of Asia-Pacific regional security? Was it a stepping-stone towards a wider multilateral security framework or a millstone weighing down developing bilateral relationships? Now largely forgotten, when ASPAC is remembered it is usually with distaste. The purpose of this paper is to rescue ASPAC from an undeserved obscurity and to consider whether it left any legacy for the Post-Cold War era.
C.W. Braddick is an independent scholar. He graduated from the Universities of Wales (Aberystwyth) and London (SOAS/LSE), before receiving his doctorate in International Relations from St. Antony's College, Oxford in 1998. He was Professor of International Political History at Musashi University, Tokyo (1989-2006) and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra (2001-2009). In addition, he has served as the Senior North Asia Specialist to the Australian Federal Parliament, as a member of the Anglo-Japanese History Project and the Editorial Advisory Board for the Cold War Encyclopedia Project. His publications include: 'Britain, the Commonwealth, and the Post-war Japanese Revival, 1945–70', The Round Table (2010); 'Japan, Australia, and ASPAC: the Rise and Fall of an Asia-Pacific Cooperative Security Framework', in Japan, Australia and Asia-Pacific Security (2006); Japan and the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1950-1964 (2004), and 'Distant Friends: Britain and Japan since 1958—the Age of Globalization', in The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600–2000 (2000).