To counter China NATO and Asian partners strengthen ties under US leadership

To counter China NATO and Asian partners strengthen ties under US leadership

In the third year of the war in Ukraine, NATO is set to deepen relations with its four Indo-Pacific partners. Although these partners are not part of the military alliance, they are gaining prominence as Russia and China forge closer ties to counter the United States. The two Koreas support opposing sides of the conflict in Europe. The leaders of New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea will attend the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., while Australia will send its deputy prime minister. China will be closely monitoring the summit, concerned about NATO’s growing interest beyond Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently highlighted the increasing relevance of global challenges to both European and Asian partners. He emphasized that the U.S. has been working to break down barriers between European alliances, Asian coalitions, and other global partners. This effort is part of a new strategic landscape.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced that NATO allies and Indo-Pacific partners will launch four new joint projects focused on Ukraine, artificial intelligence, disinformation, and cybersecurity. Sullivan stated that the main goal is to harness the unique strengths of highly capable democracies to address shared challenges.

Countries with shared security concerns are strengthening ties as competition escalates between the United States and China. Washington aims to curb Beijing’s ambition to challenge the U.S.-led world order, which the Chinese government dismisses as a Cold War mentality aimed at containing China’s rise. Beijing has responded angrily to the prospect of NATO and its Indo-Pacific partners deepening their cooperation. Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, accused NATO of “breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defense zone, and stoking confrontation.”

The war in Ukraine has bolstered the argument for closer cooperation between the U.S., Europe, and their Asian allies. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the U.S. Congress that “Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow.” The U.S. and South Korea have accused Pyongyang of supplying Russia with ammunition, while Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea and signed a pact with leader Kim Jong Un that envisions mutual military assistance. South Korea and Japan are sending military supplies and aid to Ukraine. The U.S. also claims that China is providing Russia with technology that allows it to make weapons to use against Ukraine.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol will bring a strong message regarding the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea to Washington. He will discuss ways to enhance cooperation among NATO allies and Indo-Pacific partners. New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said discussions would focus on collective efforts to support the rules-based system.

The partnership does not make NATO a direct player in the Indo-Pacific but allows it to coordinate with the four partners on issues of mutual concern. They can share information and align on actions such as sanctions and aid delivery but do not intervene in military crises outside their regions. The NATO summit will allow the United States and its European and Indo-Pacific allies to push back against China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

Luis Simon, director of the Centre for Security Diplomacy and Strategy at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, noted that the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific alliances are structured around U.S. military power, making them more cohesive and giving them a strategic edge compared to the partnerships that bind China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Beijing is worried by NATO’s pivot to the east. Zhu Feng, dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University, insisted that NATO should not interfere in security affairs in the Indo-Pacific and should change its view of China as a strategic adversary. Zhu argued that NATO should consider China a positive force for regional peace and stability and for global security. He also expressed hope for an end to the Ukraine war and rejected a return to a triangular relationship with Russia and North Korea.

NATO and China had little conflict until tensions grew between Beijing and Washington in 2019. That year, the NATO summit in London raised China as a “challenge” that needed to be addressed together as an alliance. Two years later, NATO upgraded China to a “systemic challenge” and noted Beijing’s military cooperation with Russia. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand attended a NATO summit for the first time, where statements noted the geopolitical challenges China poses. Beijing accused NATO of cooperating with the U.S. government for an all-around suppression of China.

Now, Beijing is worried that Washington is forming a NATO-like alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Chinese Senior Col. Cao Yanzhong asked U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin whether the U.S. was trying to create an Asian version of NATO by emphasizing partnerships and alliances. These include a U.S. grouping with Britain and Australia, another with Australia, India, and Japan, and one with Japan and South Korea. Austin replied that the U.S. was simply working with like-minded countries with similar values and a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Beijing has its own conclusion. Chinese Lt. Gen. Jing Jianfeng stated that the real intent of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is to integrate all small circles into a big circle as the Asian version of NATO to maintain U.S.-led hegemony.

Source: AP News

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