Since the Asian financial crisis of 1998, regional scholars and diplomats have maintained that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) represents an evolving economic and security community. In addition, many contend that what is known as the ASEAN process not only has transformed Southeast Asia's international relations, but has started to build a shared East Asian regional identity. ASEAN's deeper integration into a security, economic, and political community, as well as its extension into the ASEAN Plus Three processes that were begun after the 1997 financial crisis, offers a test case of the dominant assumptions in both ASEAN scholarship and liberal and idealist accounts of international relations theory. Three case studies of ASEAN operating as an economic and security community demonstrate, however, that the norms and practices that ASEAN promotes, rather than creating an integrated community, can only sustain a pattern of limited intergovernmental and bureaucratically rigid interaction.

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