A senior Chinese envoy used an unprecedented conversation with the head of NATO to warn the trans-Atlantic alliance to stay out of the Indo-Pacific.
“In recent years, some NATO members have sent ships and planes to the vicinity of China,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, according to a Chinese summary. “NATO should adhere to its original geographical positioning and play a constructive role in securing peaceful and stable regional development.”
NATO has turned a wary eye toward China in recent years, as Beijing declared itself a “near-Arctic” power and forged a partnership with Russia that brought Chinese warships into the Baltic Sea in 2017. With U.S. lawmakers and officials sounding an alarm against China’s use of economic maneuvers to gain strategic advantages in Europe, Stoltenberg has orchestrated an effort within NATO to consider the possibility of a new threat from a rising communist power — even though it’s rooted farther east than the Soviet Union in Moscow when the alliance first came together in 1949.
“The Secretary General recalled that NATO does not see China as an adversary but called on China to uphold its international commitments and act responsibly in the international system,” Stoltenberg said, according to a NATO-issued readout of the call. “He raised NATO’s concerns over China’s coercive policies, expanding nuclear arsenal and lack of transparency on its military modernization.”
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For most of its existence, NATO has focused on security within Europe and North America. Still, the U.S. invocation of the alliance’s collective defense pledge brought the bloc into Afghanistan for a two-decade conflict. Several of the leading NATO member states have significant geopolitical stakes in the Indo-Pacific. The United States has several key allies in the region — from Australia to South Korea and Japan, for instance — and important American territories. Likewise, France has substantial territorial holdings, and the U.S. and the United Kingdom have a particularly close alliance with the Australians.
“The secretary general urged China to engage meaningfully in dialogue, confidence-building, and transparency measures regarding its nuclear capabilities and doctrine,” Stoltenberg said. “He stressed that reciprocal transparency and dialogue on arms control would benefit both NATO and China.”
NATO joined the U.S. in July to accuse a Chinese spy agency of responsibility for a series of “really eye-opening” cyberattacks, including one that targeted Microsoft Exchange. Beijing, on the other hand, can boast of close economic ties with key members of NATO and the European Union, such as Germany and Hungary.
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“The two sides should look at each other rationally and objectively rather than listening to and believing in misinformation only and being confused by lies and rumors,” the Chinese foreign minister argued. “China has not been, and will not be, an adversary of NATO.”