By Fernando Prieto Arellano
Madrid, Jun 30 (EFE).- The Indo-Pacific region has emerged as a key arena for Nato if it is to contain the political, economic and military ambitions of China, which the alliance has identified in its Strategic Concept unveiled at a summit in Madrid that ended Thursday as a major rival in what it calls a “new era of strategic competition.”
To slow those ambitions, Nato and several key nations from the region – Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – strengthened their geostrategic relations at the summit to consolidate a continuous system of shared values and objectives.
“China is not our adversary, but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents and we must continue to stand with our partners to preserve the rules-based international order,” Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said.
“A global system based on norms and values, instead of brute violence.”
That collaboration will be in various areas, including cyber defense, new technologies, maritime security, climate change, and countering disinformation, Stoltenberg added.
Indo-Pacific nations, in particular Australia, Japan and South Korea, are well aware that they cannot counteract China’s irredentist aspirations in Taiwan and that it is gaining more allies both in the region and beyond, so they must try to establish a kind of joint partnership, not only among themselves, but also with Nato, which itself sees the partnership as crucial to gaining a foothold in Asia.
For the United States, the Indo-Pacific is its main geostrategic priority, as the 2021 AUKUS defensive alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom clearly showed, which at the time drew loud complaints from Beijing as well as several Western allies, who feared that Washington was slowly untangling itself from its role in Nato in favor of more convenient partnerships.
US president Joe Biden, who held meetings with Japan and SOuth Korea on the sidelines of the summit in Madrid, said their trilateral partnership was “essential” in tackling regional issues, particularly North Korea (a close Beijing ally) and its recent missile tests.
But the war in Ukraine and the geostrategic aggression shown by Russian president Vladimir Putin disrupted US plans, leaving Washington with no alternative but to strongly support Kyiv in military terms and encourage the Allies to match that support, in particular to avoid a breakdown of the security structure in Europe, which until the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 seemed to have been settled.
While Nato’s Strategic Concept identifies Russia, the war in Ukraine and its expanding eastern flank following the accession of Sweden and Finland as the alliance’s main concern, it also addressed several paragraphs to the challenges posed by China.
The document emphasizes that China’s “stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values”, while also referring to Beijing’s “malicious hybrid and cyber operations” and “its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation” used to target allies and harm Nato security.
According to the allies, China attempts “to subvert the rules-based international order” poses “systemic challenges” to transatlantic security.
While it stops short of calling Beijing a “threat” – as it did with Russia – the Strategic Concept warns of the risks of failing to establish mechanisms to counter China, while still insisting the alliance would “remain open to constructive engagement with the PRC.”
China has harshly criticized the Strategic Concept, with its ambassador to EU saying Thursday that “30 years after the end of the Cold War, it has not yet abandoned its thinking and practice of creating ‘enemies’ and engaging in bloc confrontation.” EFE