Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army march during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Fu Tian | China News Service | Visual China Group | Getty Images
LONDON — NATO’s secretary general said the alliance needs to address the challenges and opportunities posed by an increasingly powerful China, but added that his 29-member defense organization does not want to make an enemy out of Beijing.
“What we see is that the rising power of China is shifting the global balance of power and the rises of China — the economic rise, the military rise — provides some opportunities but also some serious challenges,” Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in London on Monday.
He said that while NATO would not get involved in an area like the South China Sea, China was engaging in economic and military projects closer to Europe.
The South China Sea is an area that is subject to various territorial disputes between China and other nations who claim sovereignty to some or all of the islands in the region.
“There’s no way that NATO will move into the South China Sea but we have to address the fact that China is coming closer to us, investing heavily in infrastructure,” Stoltenberg said.
“We see them in Africa, we see them in the Arctic, we see them in cyber space and China now has the second-largest defense budget in the world.”
“So of course, this has some consequences for NATO,” he added. The military alliance is about to hold its 70th anniversary summit this week on the outskirts of the U.K. capital.
Stoltenberg noted that China had recently displayed “a lot of new modern military capabilities, including intercontinental long-range missiles that can reach Europe and North America … So we need — and we will do this at our meeting in London — to address together how to respond to the rise of China.”
NATO’s secretary general insisted that the military alliance did not want to “create new adversaries” and said that “as long as NATO allies stand together, we are strong and we are safe … We are by far the strongest military power in the world,” he said.