The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation.

AuthorSahashi, Ryo

Ang Cheng Guan's latest book is a well-crafted analysis of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a military alliance that is often overlooked in the history of the Cold War in Asia. Based on an extensive literature review, and utilizing a wealth of sources, mainly from America's diplomatic archives, the author has succeeded in producing a solid tract of diplomatic history. The book not only re-evaluates SEATO as an important case study of collective defence, but also provides readers with a deep understanding of the history of the Cold War in Asia from the 1950s to the 1970s. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation is thus an important contribution to the literature on the history of international relations in Asia.

In Chapter One, the author discusses several security frameworks that existed in Asia before SEATO was established in 1954, while in the subsequent chapters he charts the history of SEATO from its inception to its dissolution in 1977. The SEATO that emerges is described by the author as "very much a compromised treaty" (p. 34). Indeed, SEATO's founding text, the Manila Pact, showed concern for regional security because many countries in Southeast Asia were in the process of nation-building, but lacked substantive content other than an anti-communist orientation. After the creation of SEATO, there were attempts to substantiate the contents of the Manila Pact. However, what became apparent during this process was Washington's unwillingness to get involved militarily in Asia or be bound by regional security commitments. This, in turn, led the Asian signatories of the pact to become increasingly distrustful of America. While Secretary of State John Foster Dulles recognized the necessity of building SEATO to confront the Communist bloc in Asia, he did not intend to make it comparable to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). There were also differences of opinion among the United Kingdom, France and the United States about the approach and commitment to Southeast Asia. Article III of the pact also provided for economic cooperation, and SEATO launched several frameworks for this purpose, though none of them were ever successful. Meanwhile, during SEATO's early years, Australia and New Zealand took the position that SEATO should not affect the role of the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) alliance. Pakistan had joined with great enthusiasm, even though it lost its interest in SEATO relatively quickly since...

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