During the NATO Summit in London on December 3rd – 4th, China was a main point of the agenda, which marks the first time the alliance looks at another primary adversary in addition to Russia.
At the press point by NATO Secretary General and US President Donald Trump, China was a large part of the discussion, as its recent rise and rapidly improving military capability have placed it on par with Russia as a potential threat to the NATO member states.
“And we are, as an Alliance, for the first time also addressing the security implications of the rise of China,” Stoltenberg started off.
Trump himself also elaborated on why China was an important subject for the summit.
“Well, China has become very powerful and much more so than in the past. They’ve done it, largely, with United States money, because our past Presidents allowed them to steal the cookie cutter. And that’s okay – I don’t begrudge China for that. I begrudge – I’m very disappointed in our past Presidents and leadership. They allowed this to happen. There’s no way it should’ve happened.
And, by the way, I’m doing very well in a deal with China, if I want to make it. If I want to make it. I don’t think it’s “if they want to make it”; it’s “if I want to make it.” And we’ll see what happens. But I’m doing very well, if I want to make a deal. I don’t know that I want to make it, but you’re going to find out pretty soon. We’ll surprise everybody.”
Stoltenberg on the other hand said that focusing also on China wasn’t surprising, since NATO generally doesn’t have a principal enemy outlined in its charter. It has customarily been the Soviet Union, and then Russia, but clearly the rise of China would have its own implications.
“China has the second largest defense budget in the world and has recently displayed a lot of new, modern capabilities including long-range missiles able to reach the whole of Europe and the United States.
They recently displayed a lot of new advanced military weapons systems, including new intercontinental ballistic missiles able to reach the whole of Europe and the United States; hypersonic weapons, gliders; and they also deployed hundreds of intermediate-range missiles that would have violated the INF Treaty if China had been part of that treaty.”
Stoltenberg further emphasized it wasn’t so much that NATO wanted to move into the South China Sea, but rather because China was moving closer:
“We see them in the Arctic. We see them in Africa. We see them investing heavily in European infrastructure. And, of course, we see China in cyberspace.”
The NATO Secretary General furthermore said that moving along, in the future, it would be necessary to include China in arms control, not simply Russia.
“Arms control is something I know that the President is very focused on. I really would like to see progress on arms control with Russia. But also, in one way, we will have to find ways to include China. Because, in the future, China has to be part of the arms control efforts.”
Trump, too, confirmed that he terminated the INF Treaty, because he believed Russia wasn’t living up to its end of the deal, and that Russia showed interest in a new arms control deal. But the US would look into ways to get China in on the deal, either from the start, or later on. But he emphasized that both Moscow and Washington “badly” wanted a new arms control deal.
It is also likely that admitting that China would become a focus on NATO’s suppression efforts, is a sure way of further pushing Moscow and Beijing closer to each other.
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