From its inception, ASPAC had to accommodate competing visions concerning the nature and functions of the organization. Some sought mutual developmental aid or even an economic union; others, including U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, wished to convert it into a military alliance or at least a strong ideological union. In practice, however, ASPAC became an informal consultative forum on regional problems, including economic, social, cultural, political, and security issues.
Following a long gestation, ASPAC enjoyed a period of steady growth in confidence and maturity during which it convened seven ministerial meetings: Seoul, South Korea (June 1966 and June 1972); Bangkok, Thailand (July 1967); Canberra, Australia (July–August 1968); Kawana, Japan (June 1969); Wellington, New Zealand (June 1970); and Manila, Philippines (July 1971). A standing committee of ambassadors met in the interim. ASPAC sponsored the creation of a series of small multilateral projects, including the Registry of Scientific and Technical Services in Canberra, the Social and Cultural Center in Seoul, the Economic Cooperation Center in Thailand, and the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center in Taiwan. The group met as an informal caucus at international conferences, including the United Nations (UN), where Laos, Singapore, and Indonesia also participated. More than sixty such meetings were held during 1967–1970.
ASPAC's eventual decline was a product of the PRC's emergence from the self-induced isolation of the Cultural Revolution. Following the PRC's admission to the UN and the subsequent Sino-American rapprochement, Japan, Australia, and other members normalized their diplomatic relations with Beijing. The group formally disbanded in May 1975 following the fall of Saigon.
Christopher W. Braddick
Goldsworthy, David, ed. Facing North: A Century of Australian Engagement with Asia, Vol. 1, 1901 to the 1970s. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2001.