Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) agreed on Sunday that NATO expansion into Asia was “inevitable” as the Western military alliance increasingly has its eyes on China.
Both senators made the comments on NBC’s Meet the Press. When asked by host Chuck Todd if NATO expanding into Asia was inevitable, Sullivan replied, “I think it is, and I think it was a positive summit.”
Sullivan was part of the Senate delegation that attended the NATO summit in Vilnius last week. The communiqué that was issued by the alliance mentioned China more than a dozen times, compared with just one mention in the previous year’s NATO summit communiqué.
“It wasn’t just the mention of China several times – almost 20 times in my count – but Chuck, you probably saw the leaders who were there… the prime minister of Japan, prime minister of Australia, the president of Korea,” Sullivan said. He added that the Senate delegation met with the Asia Pacific leaders, calling it “a really strong signal with regard to NATO.”
Duckworth was then interviewed by Todd and said she agreed with Sullivan about NATO expansion into Asia. “I agree with my friend and frankly, it already has started to do that with our successful AUKUS agreement between the UK, Australia and the United States,” she said.
Building alliances in Asia is a major aspect of the Biden administration’s strategy against China. For their part, Beijing has repeatedly told NATO to stay out of the region and has warned that the US’s strategy of forming blocs in the region could lead to a “Ukraine-style crisis.”
There is some opposition to expanding into Asia within NATO as France has blocked the alliance’s plans to open a liaison office in Japan. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the plan is still up for discussion, signaling it could still happen in the future.