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NATO, Asian partners moving closer

July 10, 2024 00:00:00

WASHINGTON, June 9 (AP): In the third year of the war in Ukraine, NATO is set to deepen relations with its four Indo-Pacific partners, which, although not part of the military alliance, are gaining prominence as Russia and China forge closer ties to counter the United States and the two Koreas support opposing sides of the conflict in Europe.

The leaders of New Zealand, Japan and South Korea for the third year in a row will attend the NATO summit, which starts Tuesday in Washington, D.C., while Australia will send its deputy prime minister. China will be following the summit closely, worried by the alliance's growing interest beyond Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

"Increasingly, partners in Europe see challenges halfway around the world in Asia as being relevant to them, just as partners in Asia see challenges halfway around the world in Europe as being relevant to them," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week at the Brookings Institution.

America's top diplomat said the U.S. has been working to break down barriers between European alliances, Asian coalitions and other partners worldwide. "That's part of the new landscape, the new geometry that we've put in place."

Countries with shared security concerns are strengthening ties as competition escalates between the United States and China. Washington is trying to curb Beijing's ambition to challenge the U.S.-led world order, which the Chinese government dismisses as a Cold War mentality aimed at containing China's inevitable rise.

On Monday, Beijing responded angrily to unconfirmed reports that NATO and its four Indo-Pacific partners are expected to release a document laying out their relationship and ability to respond jointly to threats from cyberattacks and disinformation.

Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, accused NATO of "breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defense zone and stoking confrontation."

The war in Ukraine, which has pitted the West against Russia and its friends, has bolstered the argument for closer cooperation between the U.S., Europe and their Asian allies. "Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow," Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the U.S. Congress in April.

The U.S. and South Korea accused Pyongyang of supplying Russia with ammunition, while Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea last month and signed a pact with leader Kim Jong Un that envisions mutual military assistance.

South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, are sending military supplies and aid to Ukraine. The U.S. also says China is providing Russia with machine tools, microelectronics and other technology that allow it to make weapons to use against Ukraine.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will bring to Washington "a strong message regarding the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea and discuss ways to enhance cooperation among NATO allies and Indo-Pacific partners," his principal deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, told reporters Friday.

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