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NATO says China is ‘decisive enabler’ of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

China is a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war on Ukraine, NATO leaders said on Wednesday (10), as the defense alliance hardens its stance toward Beijing and the “systematic challenges” it says it poses to their countries’ security.

The joint statement marks NATO’s most forceful tone yet on China’s role in a war that has galvanized the 75-year-old bloc, which celebrated its anniversary this week at a three-day leaders’ summit in Washington hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

China’s “unfettered” partnership with Russia and its “large-scale support for Russia’s defense industrial base” enable Moscow to wage its war, the leaders’ statement said, while urging Beijing to “cease all material and political support for Russia’s war effort.”

U.S. and European leaders have in recent months accused China of bolstering Russia’s defense sector by exporting dual-use goods. Beijing has denied supplying weapons and says it maintains tight controls on such products.

NATO leaders also elaborated more than in the past on concerns about China’s growing capabilities and activities in space, and reiterated their previous unease about what they called Beijing’s “malicious cyber and hybrid activities,” including disinformation, and its “rapid” expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

“We remain open to constructive engagement with the PRC, including to build mutual transparency to safeguard the Alliance’s security interests,” the statement said, referring to China by the initials of its official name.

“At the same time, we are strengthening our shared consciousness, improving our resilience and preparedness, and guarding against the PRC’s coercive tactics and efforts to divide the Alliance.”

The statement by NATO leaders on Wednesday comes as the 32-member alliance — historically focused on security in North America and Europe — has in recent years increased its engagement with U.S. allies in Asia and increasingly viewed its security as tied to the region, even as member countries have pursued divergent policies toward China.

For the third year running, the leaders of New Zealand, Japan and South Korea attended the NATO leaders’ summit, in another sign of closer ties between the bloc and those countries, as well as Australia.

The strengthening of ties between China and Russia

Beijing has deepened political, economic and military ties with Moscow since President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared in February 2022 a “limitless” partnership — and their shared opposition to what they said was NATO expansion — during the Russian leader’s visit to the Chinese capital, weeks before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

China has surpassed the European Union to become Russia’s top trading partner, offering essential safeguards to its economy, which was heavily sanctioned in the wake of the invasion, while the two nuclear-armed neighbors have continued to hold joint military exercises.

Meanwhile, China has claimed neutrality in the war and sought to position itself as a potential peace broker, even as U.S. and European leaders have become increasingly alarmed by what they say is Beijing’s support for Moscow through its economic and diplomatic support, as well as the supply of dual-use goods.

On Thursday (11), China criticized the NATO statement as “full of Cold War mentality and belligerent rhetoric” and said it was “provocative with obvious lies and slander”.

“China is not the creator of the crisis in Ukraine. China’s position towards Ukraine is open and honest. Our aim is to promote peace negotiations and seek a political solution,” said a statement from its mission to the European Union.

The Chinese statement also reiterated Beijing’s position that it has never supplied lethal weapons in the conflict and has strict dual-use export controls, defending its trade with Russia as “normal”.

In recent months, U.S. and European leaders have sounded the alarm that such exports are revitalizing Russia’s defense sector and allowing it to survive despite heavy international sanctions. The U.S. has said that dual-use exports have specifically enabled the production of tanks, ammunition and armored vehicles.

Both the US and the EU have sanctioned Chinese entities they claim support the war effort.

NATO’s growing focus on Asia

The statement by NATO leaders is the latest step in what has been a gradual hardening of the bloc’s tone toward China in recent years.

NATO leaders first mentioned the need to jointly address the “opportunities and challenges” posed by China in a 2019 statement, before moving on to refer to the “systemic challenges” the country poses in 2021.

That shift has come with a heightened focus of U.S. policy on the Indo-Pacific, amid a deepening rivalry with Beijing as China, under Xi’s leadership, has become increasingly aggressive in the region and in its broader foreign policy.

NATO’s focus on Asia has also been accelerated over the past two and a half years by the hardening of geopolitical divisions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s deepening ties not only with China but also with North Korea and Iran.

NATO leaders also said on Wednesday that Pyongyang and Tehran were “fueling” Russia’s war through “direct military support” and condemned North Korea’s exports of “artillery shells and ballistic missiles” to Russia — which several governments say they have been monitoring since last year, when Putin hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Russian Far East.

“The Indo-Pacific is important to NATO, as developments in that region directly affect Euro-Atlantic security,” the leaders said in their statement.

“We are strengthening dialogue to address interregional challenges and improve our practical cooperation, including through flagship projects in the areas of support for Ukraine, cyber defense, combating disinformation and technology,” he said.

Beijing has been warily watching NATO’s growing engagement with other powers in the Asia-Pacific. China is widely seen by observers as hoping to become the dominant force in the region and push back against the U.S. presence there as Washington builds on its long-standing partnerships and security interests in the Indo-Pacific.

China and Russia have also converged on their shared opposition to NATO, part of a broader aspiration by both to reshape a world order they see as unfairly dominated by the United States, and both have blamed the Western security alliance for provoking Moscow to invade Ukraine.

In its statement on Thursday, Beijing’s mission to the EU called on NATO to “correct its misperception of China” and “abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game”.

“The Asia-Pacific region is a place for peaceful development, not a battleground for geopolitical competition… NATO must not become the disturber of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific,” the statement said.

Source: CNN Brasil

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