NATO Summit Aims to Increase Partnerships in Indo-Pacific

07:33 July 9, 2024

NATO Summit Aims to Increase Partnerships in Indo-Pacific

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is seeking closer ties with non-member partners from Asia at its 2024 leaders meeting. It opened Tuesday in the American capital, Washington, D.C.

Leaders from Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand are attending the NATO leaders’ meeting for the third straight year. Australia sent its deputy prime minister.

Expert say China will follow the three-day meeting closely to measure NATO’s interest in places beyond Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

China and Russia have strengthened ties recently as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues. In the Pacific area, North Korea has increased support for Russia while South Korea has sided with NATO allies.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He said: “…Partners in Europe see challenges halfway around the world in Asia as being relevant to them, just as partners in Asia see challenges halfway around the world in Europe as being relevant to them.”

Countries with shared security interests appear to be strengthening ties. They see the competition between the United States and China as growing. U.S. officials are concerned about China’s efforts to challenge the U.S.-led “world order.” China considers its rise inevitable and that U.S. concerns come from the Cold War competition of the past.

China’s foreign ministry criticized NATO’s reported interest in deepening its partnerships with Asian nations. At its usual press briefing Tuesday, a Chinese foreign ministry official said NATO was “breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defense zone and stoking confrontation…”

The war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has placed Russia and its allies against the U.S., Europe and their Asian allies. For example, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the U.S. Congress in April that, “Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow.”

In addition, the U.S. and South Korea have accused North Korea of supplying Russia with ammunition for the war. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea in June and signed an agreement on joint military assistance.

Both Japan and South Korea are sending military supplies and aid to Ukraine.

The U.S. says China is providing Russia with machine tools, electronics and other technology that can be used to make weapons to use against Ukraine.

A national security advisor to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Yoon will bring “a strong message regarding the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea.” The official also said the president would discuss ways to increase cooperation between NATO allies and Indo-Pacific partners.

Mirna Galic is an expert on China and East Asia at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. Galic says the partnership between Asian countries and NATO does not make NATO a direct actor in the Indo-Pacific areas. For example, she wrote in an analysis, they can share information and align on actions such as sanctions and aid shipments. But, she continued, they do not intervene in military crises outside of their own areas.

Zhu Feng is the dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University in China. He believes China is worried about NATO’s interest in the East and wants to be seen as a force for peace.

Zhu said, “NATO should consider China as a positive force for the regional peace and stability and for global security.” He added, “We also hope the Ukraine war can end as soon as possible…”

NATO and China had little conflict until 2019. That year, the NATO summit in London raised China as a “challenge” that needed to be dealt with “together as an alliance.” Two years later, NATO called China a “systemic challenge” and said it was “cooperating militarily with Russia.” Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

At the Shangri-la Dialogue security meeting in Singapore this year, American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked about the alliance and the Indo-Pacific area.

Austin said the U.S. was working with “like-minded countries with similar values and a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Chinese Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng also attended the Shangri-la Dialogue. He told delegates that Western alliances in Asia were an effort to continue what he called “the hegemony as led by the United States.”

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

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