China promises ‘robust response’ to any NATO expansion in Asia

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Leaders from Asia pose for a group photo with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Beijing rejects NATO concern over its ‘stated ambitions’, criticises presence of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea at summit.

Beijing has reacted angrily to a NATO communique portraying China as a major challenge to the group’s interests and security.

In a strongly worded communique issued halfway through their two-day summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, NATO leaders said the People’s Republic of China challenged the alliance’s interests, security and values with its “stated ambitions and coercive policies”.

“The PRC employs a broad range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up,” the group’s leaders said in their communique, which covered 90 different points.

“The PRC’s malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target Allies and harm Alliance security.”

The NATO declaration also said China and Russia were involved in a “deepening strategic partnership” and that the two countries were involved in “mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order”. The leaders urged China to play a “constructive” role as one of five permanent, veto-holding, members of the United Nations Security Council and condemn Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine”.

The Chinese mission to the European Union condemned the comments, accusing NATO of distorting China’s position and deliberately trying to discredit the country.

“We firmly oppose and reject this,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Leaders attending the two-day summit also include Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol amid concerns about rising tension in the region over issues from China to North Korea, which on Wednesday tested a suspected long-range ballistic missile.

In May, Kishida stressed Japan had no plans to become a NATO member, after the alliance said it was planning to open a Tokyo liaison office, its first in the Asian region. The four countries, which have also shown support for Ukraine through sanctions and providing military support, were also invited to last year’s NATO summit in Madrid.

In the statement, the Chinese mission said Beijing opposed NATO’s “eastward movement into the Asia-Pacific region” and warned: “Any act that jeopardises China’s legitimate rights and interests will be met with a resolute response.”

China’s state media also moved to attack NATO over its overtures towards democracies in the region with the tabloid Global Times publishing an editorial accusing the group of being “Washington’s axe, spears and shovels” and being the “source of war” wherever it goes.

“NATO must promptly withdraw the black hand it has extended toward the Asia-Pacific region, and it should not even think about squeezing half of its body in the future,” the editorial said, claiming that most countries in Asia “not only do not welcome NATO but also see it as a terrible monster that should be avoided at all costs”.

Tuesday’s NATO declaration builds on the Strategic Concept that the group released last year, and which marked the first time the alliance had referred to the risks posed by China’s ambitions and policies. It noted that the Asia Pacific was “important for NATO, given that developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA, REUTERS

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