‘NATO must face up to China’s rise’

The head of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has urged members to respond to China’s rise at a summit designed to shore up US support for the Western alliance.

The summit is expected to issue a statement describing China’s behaviour as a “systemic challenge” after the meeting in Belgium.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the meeting was a “pivotal moment” for the alliance.

It is US President Joe Biden’s first NATO meeting since taking office.

NATO is a powerful political and military alliance between 30 European and North American countries. It was established after World War Two in response to the threat of communist expansion.

In recent years, the alliance came under strain as leaders debated its purpose and funding.

Tensions grew during the presidency of Donald Trump, who complained about his country’s financial contributions to the alliance and questioned the US commitment to defend European partners.

In contrast, his successor Mr Biden has sought to reassert American backing for the 72-year-old alliance.

“I want to make it clear: NATO is critically important for US interests,” Mr. Biden said as he arrived at the summit on Monday.

His country, he said, had a “sacred obligation” to observe Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, which commits members to defend each other from attack.

According to a draft of the summit’s communiqué (concluding statement) seen by news agencies, China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security”.

The draft document says China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, is “opaque” in the modernisation of its military and is co-operating militarily with Russia.

“We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation,” it adds.

President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the NATO talks would focus on collective security, including standing up to China and its rapid military rise.

“We’re not entering a new Cold War and China is not our adversary, not our enemy,” Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters ahead of the summit.

“But we need to address together, as the alliance, the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security.”

China is one of the world’s leading military and economic powers, whose ruling Communist Party has a tight grip on politics, daily life and much of society. -BBC

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