New Telegraph

China, Taiwan Loom Large Behind Ukraine At NATO Summit

The presence of four Asia-Pacific leaders at the NATO summit this week suggests that Ukraine is not the only major security issue on the agenda of the European-North American defence alliance.

The war in Ukraine has brought members of the US-led alliance closer than any time since the Cold War, and on Monday, NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg summed up their collective concerns that what is happening in Ukraine today could occur in Asia tomorrow.

“The Chinese government’s increasingly coercive behaviour abroad and repressive policies at home challenge NATO’s security, values, and interests,” Stoltenberg wrote on the Foreign Affairs website.

“Beijing is threatening its neighbours and bullying other countries,” he said, adding that the Chinese threat extends directly into the homelands of the 31 countries in the alliance as the ruling Chinese Communist Party attempts “to take control of critical supply chains and infrastructure in NATO states.”

Autocratic nations, including China, were looking at Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and weighing the costs and benefits of offensive action, he said.

While not naming the island of Taiwan, the self-governing democracy is the most obvious point of comparison given China’s ruling Communist Party remains committed to unifying it with the mainland by force if necessary.

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“When I visited Japan and South Korea at the start of this year, their leaders were clearly concerned that what is happening in Europe today could happen in Asia tomorrow,” Stoltenberg said.

For its part, China says Taiwan is an internal matter and it sees no role for countries in the region, let alone NATO members, to be interfering.

“We will not allow anyone or any force to meddle in China’s own affairs under the disguise of seeking peace,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing in May.

The Asia-Pacific contingent at the NATO talks includes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

All four nations have expressed views that what has happened in Ukraine cannot happen in the Pacific.

Mirna Galic, senior policy analyst at the US Institute of Peace, said the presence of the four Pacific leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, “is a testament to (NATO’s) interest in the Indo-Pacific and the focus on the challenges that China poses for the alliance.”

On that point, Stoltenberg looks to be in lockstep with US President Joe Biden, with the two pledging to strengthen NATO ties to the Pacific when they met at the White House last month.

And the leaders of the four Pacific nations also seem to be striving for a united approach.

Kim Sun-hye, senior secretary to the South Korean President, said Yoon will preside over a side meeting of four Pacific countries to strengthen common awareness, solidarity, and cooperation on emerging security threats.

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