NATO leaders on Monday declared that China poses a constant security challenge and is working to undermine global order, and they said they’re worried about how fast the Chinese are developing nuclear missiles.
In a summit statement, the leaders said that China’s goals and “assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security.”
While the 30 heads of state and government avoided calling China a rival, they expressed concern about what they said were its “coercive policies,” the opaque ways it is modernizing its armed forces and its use of disinformation.
They called on Beijing to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system.
The statement comes as President Joe Biden has stepped up his effort to rally allies to speak in a more unified voice about China’s human rights record, its trade practices and its military’s increasingly assertive behavior that has unnerved U.S. allies in the Pacific.
Biden, who arrived at the summit after three days of consulting with Group of Seven (G-7) allies in England, pushed for the G-7 communique there that called out what it said were forced labor practices and other human rights violations impacting Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the western Xinjiang province. The president said he was satisfied with the communique, although differences remain among the allies about how forcefully to criticize Beijing.
The new Brussels communique states plainly that the NATO nations “will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the alliance.”″
The Chinese Embassy to the United Kingdom on Monday issued a statement saying the G-7 communique “deliberately slandered China and arbitrarily interfered in China’s internal affairs,” and exposed the “sinister intentions of a few countries, such as the United States.” There was no immediate reaction from the Chinese government to the new NATO statement.
Biden arrived at his first NATO summit as president as leading members declared it a pivotal moment for an alliance beleaguered during the presidency of Donald Trump, who questioned the relevance of the multilateral organization.
Shortly after arriving at the alliance’s headquarters for the first NATO summit of his presidency, Biden sat down with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and underscored the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the alliance charter, which spells out that an attack on one member is an attack on all and is to be met with a collective response.
“Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation,” Biden said. “I want NATO to know America is there.”