Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, has stated that the increased presence of China and its cooperation with Russia can be seen as a danger in Asia and Europe.

On Wednesday, Stoltenberg stressed that the increasing assertiveness of China and its partnership with Russia poses a risk to Asia and Europe. He called for enhanced collaboration and more “friends” for NATO in the Indo-Pacific area.

Stoltenberg stated that China is investing in atomic arms and long-range missiles without offering transparency or participating in substantial discussions on controlling nuclear arms while intensifying pressure on its neighboring states and making menacing declarations against Taiwan, which it insists is its own domain.

“The fact that Russia and China are coming closer and the significant investments by China and new advanced military capabilities just underlines that China poses a threat, poses a challenge also to NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told an audience at Keio University in Tokyo. “Security is not regional but global.”

He noted that it was of the utmost importance for NATO to have allies and build relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping
Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Beijing with General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of China Xi Jinping. (Source: Presidential Executive Office of Russia/Wikimedia Commons)

China and Russia have been becoming more cooperative and taking part in challenging the norms of a democratic, open, and regulated global system, according to his statement.

Stoltenberg remarked that NATO has no intention of perceiving China as an enemy or desiring to confront it. However, the alliance will still interact with China in certain fields of mutual concern, such as the climate crisis.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, proclaimed China a stabilizing force in the regional and global realms while simultaneously condemning NATO for classifying it as a menace and enlarging its military collaborations in Asia.

Mao noted that NATO’s attempts to expand its sphere of influence and bolster its relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as its focus on China as an alleged threat, are not conducive to a climate of peace in the Asia-Pacific. He emphasized that the region should not be utilized as a political battleground and that the Cold War and its related bloc confrontation should not be welcomed or encouraged.

NATO and Asia

On Tuesday, Kishida declared Japan’s intention to establish a representative office at NATO. Furthermore, during the meeting between Stoltenberg and Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida, they decided to strengthen their partnership in digital security, outer space, defense, and other fields.

According to the speaker, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is increasing its “practical cooperation” with Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea in maritime cybersecurity and other areas. Furthermore, they are also intensifying the participation of their leaders and officials in NATO meetings.

The United States is Japan’s long-time ally; Japan has recently furthered its military relations with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region and with Britain, Europe, and NATO due to the rising security concerns emanating from China and North Korea.

Japan acted promptly to show support for the U.S. economic sanctions against Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Furthermore, Japan provided humanitarian assistance and defensive equipment to the Ukrainian people. Such a stance was taken due to fear that Russian aggression in Europe could be mirrored in the Asian region, where China’s more assertive attitude and the tension over Taiwan are becoming more and more pronounced.

Meanwhile, the North Korean government criticized Stoltenberg for traveling to South Korea and Japan, expressing that NATO was attempting to use its “military presence” to pressure America’s Asian allies into supplying arms to Ukraine.

North Korea denigrated the growing collaboration between the NATO countries and American partners in Asia, viewing it as a method of building an “Asian NATO” and claiming it would inflame regional tensions.

Strategic Alliance

China’s growing influence and cooperation with Russia are already causing international alarm. In light of this, NATO countries and other allies must focus on creating a solid partnership between Asia and Europe. 

In order to pre-emptively combat any threats posed by China and Russia, such a partnership must be centered around shared values such as democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and free market economics. It should also promote economic interdependence through bilateral trade agreements and collaboration on global issues such as climate change. This could create a balance of power in regions where China or Russia hold sway. 

However, the success of an Asia-Europe partnership depends on strong political will from all involved countries and adequate implementation resources. Governments must make clear their commitment to such an initiative by providing diplomatic support, military hardware, and financial contribution towards projects or initiatives aimed at strengthening the partnership. Furthermore, there needs to be greater cooperation between public and private sector actors to create a better climate for investment in targeted regions. 

Finally, an effective Asia-Europe partnership requires close coordination between NATO countries and other allies to ensure that it has both short-term impact and long-term sustainability. Research conducted by the US Naval War College highlighted the importance of strengthening maritime security cooperation between Western powers in the Indo-Pacific region, which could lead to collective deterrence against Chinese assertiveness. Increased transparency over defense spending is also critical if any effective joint response is going to be achieved. Without these measures being taken seriously by all parties involved – including NATO countries – any attempt at creating a unified front against potential threats from China or Russia is likely to fail. 

The only question is, can NATO still catch up to China’s overwhelming economic influence in the region? Or are we too late?