As China and Russia get “closer” and Beijing invests in nuclear weapons, NATO focuses on new “friends”
TOKYO – China’s growing assertiveness and cooperation with Russia pose a threat not only to Asia but also to Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday as he announced stronger cooperation and more “friends” for NATO in the Indo-Pacific region. region aspired to. Stoltenberg said China is increasingly investing in nuclear weapons and long-range missiles without offering transparency or meaningful dialogue on nuclear weapons arms control, while escalating coercion from its neighbors and threats against Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its territory .
“The fact that Russia and China are drawing closer, and China’s significant investments and new advanced military capabilities only underscore that China poses a threat also poses a challenge for NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told an audience at the Keio- University in Tokyo. “Security isn’t regional, it’s global.”
“NATO needs to make sure we have friends,” he said. “It is important to work more closely with our partners in the Indo-Pacific.”
Calling it a “critical moment for NATO and for Japan,” Stoltenberg said China and Russia are “leading an authoritarian backlash against the international rules-based order.”
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Stoltenberg said a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war against Ukraine would send a message that authoritarian regimes can use brute force to achieve their goals. “It’s dangerous,” he said.
“China is watching closely and learning lessons that could influence its future decisions,” Stoltenberg said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“China is significantly expanding its armed forces, including nuclear weapons, harassing its neighbors and threatening Taiwan, attempting to control critical infrastructure, and spreading misinformation about NATO and the war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “China is not our opponent, but we must understand the scale of the challenge and work together to address it.”
He said the alliance will continue to engage with China on areas of common interest such as climate change.
Gen. HR McMaster (retired), a CBS News staffer who served as former President Trump’s national security adviser, recently said the US military must be “ready” for a possible war with China. He endorsed a memo by Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command, warning that the US and China could be at war within the next two years.
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McMaster said Minihan’s comment was probably based on a “gut feeling that we are in a time of increasing danger and I think he’s right about that”. McMaster specifically pointed to Taiwan’s scheduled elections in 2024, saying that if China’s leaders “don’t see the outcome they want in Taiwan, then I think the odds will increase.”
Most importantly, McMaster said, China’s leader Xi Jinping “has said he will do it. You know, in many of his speeches, he seems to be preparing the Chinese people for war, and of course it’s our military’s job to be ready. “
Stoltenberg and Kishida held talks and agreed to intensify their partnership in security in cyberspace, space, defense and other fields.
Besides Japan, NATO is also strengthening “practical cooperation” with Australia, New Zealand and South Korea in maritime cybersecurity and other areas, and increasing the participation of their leaders and ministers in NATO meetings, he said.
Kishida on Tuesday announced Japan’s plans to open a representative office with NATO.
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Japan, already a close ally of the United States, has expanded military ties with other Indo-Pacific nations, as well as Britain, Europe and NATO in recent years amid growing security threats from China and North Korea.
Tokyo quickly joined US-led economic sanctions against Russia’s war in Ukraine, providing humanitarian aid and non-combat defense equipment to Ukrainians. Japan fears that Russian aggression in Europe could be mirrored in Asia, where concerns are growing over China’s increasing assertiveness and escalating tensions over its claim on Taiwan.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida January 31, 2023 in Tokyo. Takashi Aoyama/AP
Stoltenberg arrived in Japan from South Korea late Monday, where he urged Seoul to provide direct military support to Ukraine to help it repel the ongoing Russian invasion.
North Korea condemned Stoltenberg’s visits to South Korea and Japan, saying NATO was trying to put its “military boots in the region” to pressure America’s Asian allies to supply arms to Ukraine.
North Korea also slammed increasing cooperation between NATO and US allies in Asia as a process to create an “Asian version of NATO,” saying it would increase tensions in the region.