Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 15:26 | SYDNEY
Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 15:26 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Who gets in the 6PT, and why


Sam Roggeveen


2 April 2008 16:23

Brendan Howe comments on Prime Minister Rudd's support for turning the Six-Party Talks into a permanent security mechanism:

So Rudd would 'welcome any efforts by the US, China, Japan and others to extend the six-party talks mechanism into a broader security mechanism - one that would later be broadened to include other countries,' providing that expansion sees Australian membership. But surely this misses a fundamental characteristic of the 6PT. International organisations are either universal (meaning anybody can join) or selective, and either have general or limited competence. The 6PT is, and most likely will always remain a selective structure with limited competence.

Who gets to join such an organization is always going to be controversial, but as a general guide states are considered: [a] essential; [b] desirable but not essential; [c] unsuitable; [d] undesirable for membership. This guide is in turn based on salience – how important is the issue for the applicant state, and how important is the applicant state to the functioning of the organisation. Rudd may claim that 'given Australia's strong economic and strategic interests in North Asia, we would see ourselves as a participant in any such mechanism at the earliest possible opportunity,' but let’s be honest, are Australia’s interests in the sub-region on a par with those of the existing participants, and it is a fair stretch to say that Australian membership is particularly important for the functioning of the 6PT? In fact, far from expansion, there is a greater call for contraction of membership, perhaps with the expulsion of North Korea and/or Russia (a mistake in either case).

The only scenarios in which Australian membership would be welcomed are: [1] if the 6PT is essentially defunct, and being unable to fulfil its original mission, no harm is seen coming from it; or [2] if the 6PT morphs into a regional security organisation for all of East Asia, with both wider competence and membership, in which case it would be increasingly unsuitable for fulfilling its original mission and would instead come to replicate the ARF.