Jan 30, 2023
China Wary as NATO Chief Seeks Stronger Ties on Asian Visit
(Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on an Asian tour that has sparked suspicion in China, which is wary of the group’s efforts to build ties with its neighbors.
The trip, which has taken Stoltenberg to Tokyo and Seoul, comes after the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand for the first time attended the summit of the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year. The NATO boss has visited an airbase and will give joint remarks with Kishida on Tuesday, as well as making a speech in the city the following day.
Ever since Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year ago, China has blamed NATO for antagonizing Russia and accused the US of seeking to set up a similar alliance in the Asia-Pacific.
During his stop in South Korea, Stoltenberg said in a speech at the CHEY Institute for Advanced Studies that “what happens in Europe matters to the Indo-Pacific, and what happens in Asia matters to NATO.” He emphasized that increased military aid for Ukraine was a matter of urgency, saying it could help bring Russia to the negotiating table.
While Seoul has provided 4.7 billion won ($3.8 million) worth of non-lethal aid that includes bulletproof vests, blankets, helmets and medicine, it has not accepted multiple requests from Ukraine to supply weapons. Japan, which has retained its pacifist constitution unchanged since 1947, has provided similar supplies, but no lethal weapons.
Stoltenberg’s trip to the two neighbors of China has caused concern in Beijing.
“NATO has constantly gone beyond its traditional areas for defense, made advances into new domains, and strengthened military and security ties with Asia-Pacific countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters Monday. “Such developments call for high vigilance among regional countries.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered fears in Japan that China could be emboldened to make a similar bid for Taiwan, a move that Tokyo sees as directly affecting its own security. Japan has thrown its support behind Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Russia, while retaining its energy ties.
Kishida has set Japan on course for its biggest increase in defense spending since the end of World War Two and earlier this month went to Italy, France, the UK and Canada as he looked beyond his country’s alliance with the US to deter China.
“China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests and to our security,” Stoltenberg said at the CHEY Institute on Monday, according to a transcript on the NATO website. adding the country is “something that features much higher on the NATO agenda and matters for our security in a way it did not do before.”
China Tells Dutch It Wants Open Supply Chains Amid US Chip Curbs
The visit comes amid rising tensions with Beijing, days after Japan reached an agreement with the US and the Netherlands to restrict some semiconductor exports to China. A standoff over disputed East China Sea islands also escalated on Monday after a Japanese survey ship approached the outcroppings.
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