BRUSSELS – NATO leaders said last Monday that China is a constant security challenge and said the Chinese are working to undermine world order.
In a summit statement, the leaders said that China’s objectives and “assertive behavior presented systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and areas relevant to the security of the alliance.”
While the 30 heads of state and government have avoided branding China as a rival, they have expressed concern over what they have termed “coercive policies,” the opaque ways in which it is modernizing its armed forces and its nation. use of disinformation.
They called on Beijing to respect its international commitments and act responsibly in the international system.
President Joe Biden, who arrived at the summit after three days of consultations with the Group of Seven allies in England, pushed for the G-7 statement denouncing what he says are forced labor practices and d other human rights violations affecting Uyghur Muslims and ethnic minorities in Western Xinjiang Province. The president said he was satisfied with the statement, although differences remain between the allies on the force to criticize Beijing.
The new press release from Brussels indicates that NATO countries “will engage with China in order to defend the security interests of the alliance”.
But some allies bristled at NATO’s efforts to speak out on China.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO’s decision to designate China as a threat “should not be overstated” because Beijing, like Russia, is also a partner in some areas. China is Germany’s largest trading partner and relies heavily on Russia to meet the country’s energy needs.
Merkel noted that “when you look at the cyber threats, the hybrid threats, when you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, you can’t just ignore China.”
But she added that it was important to “strike the right balance” because China is also a partner on many issues.
“I think it is very important, just as we do in Russia, to always offer political discussions, a political speech, in order to find solutions,” said Merkel. “But where there are threats, and I said they are also in the hybrid realm, then as NATO you have to be prepared.”
French President Emmanuel Macron urged the alliance not to let China distract it from what he saw as more pressing issues facing NATO, including the fight against terrorism and security concerns related to the Russia.
“I think it is very important not to disperse our efforts and not to be prejudiced in our relationship with China,” Macron said.
The Chinese Embassy in the UK issued a statement saying that the G-7 statement “deliberately defamed China and arbitrarily interfered with China’s internal affairs,” and exposed the “sinister intentions of a few countries, such as the United States “.
Biden arrived at his first NATO summit as president as key members said it was a pivotal moment for an alliance. Under the presidency of Donald Trump, who questioned the relevance of the multilateral organization and took steps to ensure that nations bear their share of the costs.
Shortly after arriving at alliance headquarters, Biden spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and underscored the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of the charter of the alliance, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all and must be fought. a collective response.
âSection 5 which we regard as a sacred obligation,â Biden said. “I want NATO to know America is here.”
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said Biden’s presence “underlines the renewal of the transatlantic partnership”. De Croo said NATO allies were looking to get past four difficult years under the Trump administration and the infighting among member countries.
“I think we are now ready to move on,” said de Croo.
Trump has regularly berated other NATO nations for not spending enough on defense and even threatened to pull the United States out of the world’s largest security organization.
The alliance has also updated Article 5 to provide more clarity on how the alliance should respond to major cyber attacks – a growing concern amid hacks targeting the US government and businesses around the world by hackers based in Russia.
Beyond extending the potential use of Article 5’s mutual defense clause to space, leaders also broadened the definition of what could constitute such an attack in cyberspace, in a warning to any opponent who might use constant low level attacks as a tactic.
The organization said in 2014 that a cyber attack could be countered by a collective response from the 30 member countries, but on Monday they said that “the impact of significant cumulative malicious cyber activity could, under certain circumstances, be considered equivalent to an armed attack. attack. “
The President started his day by meeting with leaders of the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank as well as with separate meetings with Polish and Romanian leaders to discuss the threat posed by Russia and the recent air piracy in Belarus, according to the White House.
Biden’s route to Europe was designed to meet first with G-7 leaders and then with NATO allies in Brussels ahead of his much-anticipated meeting with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. .
Biden met Turkish President Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit on Monday evening.
Biden, during his campaign, angered Turkish officials after he described Erdogan as an “autocrat.” In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era massacres and deportations of Armenians were “genocide” – a term US presidents have avoided using.
In a brief exchange with reporters, Biden described it as a “very good meeting.” He and Erdogan met in private before being joined by other officials.