NATO’s Stoltenberg cites Arctic as he argues for more alliance attention to China

A greater Chinese presence in the Arctic could have global security implications, Stoltenberg suggested.

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NATO needs to understand the implications of China’s rise as Beijing expands its power around the world, including areas that may challenge members of the North Atlantic security body, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Those areas include the Arctic.

NATO has traditionally focused its attention on Russia but now sees the rise of China impacting security across the globe as it invests heavily in modern military capabilities, Stoltenberg said addressing the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

“Partly because China’s coming closer,” Stoltenberg said. “We see them in the Arctic. We see them in Africa. We see them investing heavily in critical infrastructure also in Europe. We see them in cyberspace. And, we also see that decisions by China and Chinese investments in new modern military capabilities have dire consequences for us.”

China’s increasing assertiveness, including in the South China Sea, has raised concerns about its intentions, and the United States has called on NATO to recognise and adapt to new emerging threats, including China.

Stoltenberg’s remarks echo, in part, a more incendiary speech from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May on the eve of the 2019 Arctic Council ministerial meeting where he warned that “China could use its civilian research presence in the Arctic to strengthen its military presence.”

At the time, China quickly pushed back against those remarks, saying they “run counter to the general trend of peaceful cooperation in the Arctic.”

Beijing has said the country’s economic and military advancements are no threat to other nations. However, tensions have risen as a trade war between Washington and Beijing escalates, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he would like to place intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.