China rejects NATO accusations that it supports Russia’s war in Ukraine

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China has accused NATO of smearing the country and demanded the transatlantic alliance stay out of Asia, as its military has demonstrated growing influence with a record number of air operations near Taiwan and naval exercises near the Philippines.

Beijing on Thursday sharply criticized NATO for becoming a “decisive facilitator” of Russia’s war against Ukraine. NATO’s 32 leaders demanded Wednesday that China “cease all material and political support for Russia’s war effort,” in its strongest condemnation of Beijing yet.

In a joint statement at its annual summit in Washington, NATO said that Beijing’s “large-scale support for Russia’s defense industrial base… increases the threat that Russia poses to its neighbors and to Euro-Atlantic security.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said Beijing had lodged representations with NATO over the accusations, which he called “one-sided, slanderous and provocative” and labeled the alliance a “Cold War relic.”

Lin added that China’s “constructive role” in the Ukraine war was “widely recognized by the international community.” In an earlier statement, China’s mission to the EU said Beijing had never supplied lethal weapons to either side, adding that its “normal trade flows” with Russia should not be disrupted or coerced.

“Without any evidence, NATO continues to spread lies fabricated by the US, openly smear China, sow discord between China and Europe, and undermine China-Europe cooperation,” Lin said.

China’s mission to the EU countered NATO’s accusations by warning the alliance to stay away from Asia, which it said was “not a battleground for geopolitical competition.”

NATO “continues to emphasize the link between European security and security in the Asia-Pacific (…) We urge it to remain in its role as a regional defensive organization in the North Atlantic,” the statement said.

“NATO must not become a disruptor of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, nor a tool used by certain major powers to maintain their hegemony.”

The fiery rhetoric comes as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand join the NATO summit, a practice that began after Russia’s full-scale assault on Ukraine in 2022.

In response to the rise of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), U.S. allies in Asia, including Japan and the Philippines, have stepped up joint planning, exercises and weapons deployment. NATO members Britain, France, Canada and Germany have also stepped up military operations and security cooperation in the region.

Beijing hit back, with senior Chinese military officials denouncing US efforts to strengthen ties with its allies in the region as a plot to create an “Asian NATO.”

As Beijing criticized NATO, Taiwan recorded China’s largest-ever incursion into its Air Defense Identification Zone, a buffer zone set up by Taipei to provide early warning against hostile aircraft.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 66 Chinese military aircraft operated around the island in the 24 hours through 6 a.m. Wednesday, including 56 that entered the ADIZ.

The operation is part of air and naval exercises being conducted at the height of the PLA’s summer drill season. On Tuesday, Taiwan’s defense minister said a PLA aircraft carrier had passed through the Balintang Channel, between two of the northernmost islands of the Philippines, en route to the Pacific Ocean.

The PLA exercises have been underway since early July and have included air and naval maneuvers in the East China Sea north of Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea east of Luzon.

At the same time, the United States is hosting RIMPAC, the world’s largest naval exercise, which is taking place near Hawaii and brings together nearly 30 countries, but not China.

Additional reporting by Wenjie Ding in Beijing