NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg received a warm reception upon his arrival Sunday in South Korea, the first leg of a two-nation tour that also included fellow U.S. ally Japan.
But a far colder reaction came from China and North Korea, two nations whose officials emphasized on Monday that a growing military footprint of the U.S.-led alliance was not welcome in the Asia-Pacific region.
Speaking Monday at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul, Stoltenberg addressed the Western bloc’s growing focus on China, saying that, although NATO does not “regard China as an adversary” and engagement was sought on issues such as arms control and climate change, the alliance believes “China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests and to our security.” As such, he said that China has risen “much higher on the NATO agenda.”
Reacting to these comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning argued that “China is a cooperation partner of all countries, not a challenge” and it does “not pose a threat to any country’s interests and security.”
To the contrary, she said it was NATO that was raising concerns given its growing interests in regions far beyond its shores.
“While claiming to remain a regional defensive alliance, NATO has constantly gone beyond its traditional areas for defense, made advances into new domains, and strengthened military and security ties with Asia-Pacific countries,” Mao said. “Such developments call for high vigilance among regional countries.”
“We hope NATO can abandon the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation mindset,” she added, “and do things that will contribute to the security and stability of Europe and the wider world.”
And as for other nations within the Asia-Pacific, she said that “we hope regional countries will stay committed to the right path of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and play an active part in defending and promoting world peace, stability, development and prosperity.”