Over the past year, NATO has grown increasingly focused on China as the US is on a more confrontational footing with the Asian power. On Monday, China’s foreign minister expressed to the head of NATO in a rare phone call that Beijing believes the alliance should stay out of the Asia-Pacific.
“The Asia-Pacific region is where China is. Some [NATO] member states have deployed military vessels and aircraft to areas close to China,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.
“The Asia-Pacific region does not need a new military alliance — it should not cause confrontation between major powers, nor should it engage in small circles designed to instigate a new Cold War,” Wang said. “NATO should adhere to its original geographical positioning.”
The conversation was the first phone call between Wang and Stoltenberg. China had been calling for dialogue with the alliance since a NATO report released at the end of 2020 identified China as an emerging threat. This year, NATO members the UK, France, and Germany have all deployed warships to the Asia-Pacific region.
Wang told Stoltenberg that China does not want to be an enemy of NATO and urged more dialogue. “The key to pushing forward mutual ties is to see the other side objectively, not to listen to disinformation and not be fooled by lies and rumors,” he said. “China was not, and will not be, a rival to NATO.”
According to a NATO statement, Stoltenberg said the alliance “does not see China as an adversary, but called on China to uphold its international commitments and act responsibly in the international system.”
While Stoltenberg claims NATO does not see China as an “adversary,” the alliance is looking to cooperate with regional countries to counter Beijing. The report released in 2020 said NATO should build ties with countries like India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Stoltenberg had previously said that he views China as an “opportunity” to strengthen NATO.