Expert: China should actively respond to NATO’s involvement in Asia-Pacific

China Military Online
Zhang Tao

By Wang Yiwei

BEIJING, Nov. 3 (ChinaMil) -- The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Japan and the ROK before US President Donald Trump's visit to Asia. Stoltenberg took the lead on the DPRK nuclear issue, saying it will put pressure on countries to jointly impose sanctions on the DPRK in order to resolve its security threat to the world.

Why would NATO take pains for the US in the Asia-Pacific region under the context that cross-Atlantic relations are not smooth and Trump who once shouted "NATO is obsolete" became President of the US?

In fact, NATO's move is only a continuation from previous years. When the US returned to the Asia-Pacific in a high-profile manner during the Obama administration, NATO actively cooperated with the US strategy in an effort to show its presence in the world's affairs, find ways to intervene in Asia-Pacific affairs, and promote strategic transformation to go global.

The landmark move of NATO's intervention in Asia-Pacific affairs happened on April 23, 2013, when NATO foreign ministers issued an unilateral statement condemning DPRK's provocation.

It's worth noting that this was the second statement made by NATO on the Korean Peninsula after the third nuclear test by DPRK during the Lunar New Year of that year. In the same month, then NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Japan and ROK to have consultations with global partners on hot issues in the Asia-Pacific region including the Korean Peninsula.

At the invitation of NATO's Emerging Security Challenges Division (ESCD), I visited NATO’s headquarters and held informal discussions with five of the department's staff responsible for drafting the NATO intervention report on Asia-Pacific affairs. They inquired about China's view on NATO's involvement in the Asia-Pacific, reflecting that NATO was highly concerned about Asia Pacific affairs and was seeking a breakthrough.

Why is NATO so anxious to get involved in Asia Pacific affairs?

Seeking survival and development are two main themes since the birth of NATO. Since the end of the Cold War, the thirst for legitimacy has become the eternal pain of NATO. In recent years, as the US returns to the Asia-Pacific region, NATO's eyes have also shifted to the Asia-Pacific region.

On the negative side, NATO squeezed into Asia Pacific affairs in order to survive and make a difference. On the positive side, it is a major attempt to pursue a "global NATO" strategy.

NATO withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. NATO hopes to actively respond to the security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region as a new strategic direction in the post-Afghanistan era. Therefore, NATO took advantage of the fact that the US returned to the Asia-Pacific and the region became the focus of global attention.

In addition to enhancing its legitimacy, NATO’s involvement in Asia-Pacific affairs is also the result of a push from the US. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly stated that the US will not return to Asia alone; it will bring Europe along.

A total of 22 member countries of the EU are in NATO. NATO's European member countries cut funding, which increased NATO's dependence on the US. The US also hopes to introduce NATO to internationalize the Asia-Pacific affairs.

NATO has always been proud of being the largest military organization in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has claimed to be the most powerful multilateral security organization in the world.

Its main means of intervening in Asia-Pacific affairs are global partnership plans with Japan, ROK, Australia, Singapore, Mongolia and other countries. The main idea is to export the concept of multilateral security.

In response to China's emphasis on opposing the internationalization of Asian territories and sovereignty disputes, the European member states of NATO actively instilled the concept of multilateral security in Asian countries and demonstrated NATO's values in crisis management, conflict prevention and security sharing.

NATO understands that it needs China in order to get involved in Asia-Pacific affairs. Therefore, it has three demands for China. The bottom line is that China does not oppose it. It also hopes to obtain China's consent and understanding, and if possible, seek cooperation with China.

NATO has been sending its chairperson of the NATO Military Committee or other senior officials to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue for bilateral talks with Chinese representatives to find breakthroughs in the bilateral dialogue level through multilateral occasions. We cannot rule out the possibility of NATO’s promotion of the Shangri-La mode in the future.

NATO's involvement in the Asia-Pacific will undoubtedly do more harm than good to China. It will increase US bargaining chips and further internationalize and complicate Asia-Pacific affairs. It will inspire some Asian countries to win the support of NATO and even politicize the security affairs.

However, the good thing is that among the NATO member countries, there are many of our friendly countries who can provide more options for China's strategic diplomacy.

The NATO philosophy has positive elements which can be used to contain Japan's rightist movement, as well as provocations in the Philippines and Vietnam. For China, the key is to make good use of it, guide it well, and seek benefits while avoiding disadvantages.

It is a matter of the legitimacy of NATO and the US is pushing very hard. It seems difficult to block or ignore it. With all that said, we need to respond positively and make plans early.

The author is the "Jean Monnet Chair" professor and director of the Center for European Studies at the Renmin University of China.


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