China a security threat due to ‘assertive behaviour’ - Nato

Group warns about Beijing’s use of disinformation and build-up of nuclear warheads

US president Joe Biden and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg  talk at a memorial for the September 11th terrorist attacks after a summit at Nato headquarters in Brussels. Photograph:  Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

US president Joe Biden and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg talk at a memorial for the September 11th terrorist attacks after a summit at Nato headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

 

Nato has declared China a security threat for the first time in a joint statement expressing concern about increased assertiveness and a build up of nuclear warheads by Beijing.

In a communique, the alliance of 30 nations said that China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour” posed “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order”.

It expressed concern at a “frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation” by the Asian power and said it had begun military co-operation with Russia, including by taking part in joint military drills in the north Atlantic area.

“We call on China to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system, including in the space, cyber, and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power,” the communique read.

The statement follows growing alarm about increased assertiveness by Beijing, which has used a security law to smother opposition to its growing control in Hong Kong and is expanding its international influence through massive infrastructure projects.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said China now had the world’s largest navy, had been building military bases in Africa, and was investing heavily in “disruptive technologies” such as facial recognition for military use.

“When we see China coming closer to us in cyber, controlling infrastructure in Africa . . . training together with Russia in North Atlantic waters, of course it matters to Nato,” Mr Stoltenberg said. “We need to address the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security.”

The Nato statement also described “aggressive actions” by Russia as a threat to security and called on Moscow to withdraw forces from Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, accusing it of building up nuclear capacity and missile systems “intended to coerce Nato”.

US president Joe Biden is due to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday for the first time.

“What I’ll convey to president Putin is that I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities,” Mr Biden told journalists on Monday. “And we will not fail to defend the trans-Atlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values.”