China rejects Nato accusations of supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine

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China has accused Nato of smearing the country and demanded the alliance stay out of Asia, as its military demonstrated growing clout with record numbers of air operations near Taiwan and naval drills near the Philippines.

Beijing on Thursday lashed out at Nato over the transatlantic alliance’s accusation that China had become a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Nato’s 32 leaders demanded on Wednesday that China “cease all material and political support to Russia’s war effort” in its strongest-ever condemnation of Beijing.

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

Beijing said it had lodged representations with Nato over the accusations, which it called “provocative with obvious lies and smears”.

China’s mission to the EU said Beijing has sought a political settlement to the war in Ukraine and has never provided lethal weapons to either party in the conflict, adding that its “normal trade flows” with Russia should not be subject to disruption or coercion.

Beijing countered Nato’s accusations by warning the alliance to stay out of Asia, which it said was “a place for peaceful development, not a wrestling ground for geopolitical competition”.

Nato “keeps playing up the interlink between Europe’s security and the security in Asia-Pacific . . . We urge [it] to stay within its role as a regional defensive organisation in the north Atlantic,” the Chinese statement said.

“Nato should not become the disrupter of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific or a tool used by certain great powers to maintain hegemony.”

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

In response to the growing regional power of the People’s Liberation Army, US allies in Asia, including Japan and the Philippines, have stepped up joint planning, exercises and weapons deployments. Nato members such as Britain, France, Canada and Germany have also increased military operations and security co-operation in the region.

Beijing has pushed back, with top 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 criticised Nato on Wednesday, Taiwan recorded the largest-ever Chinese incursion into its air defence identification zone, a buffer area defined by Taipei to allow early warning against hostile jets.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said 66 Chinese military aircraft operated around the island in the 24 hours to 6am Wednesday, 56 of which entered the ADIZ.

The activity is part of air and naval drills at the peak of the PLA’s summer exercise season. On Tuesday, Taiwan’s defence minister said a PLA aircraft carrier had passed through the Balintang Channel between two of the Philippines’ northernmost islands on its way into the Pacific Ocean.

The PLA drills have been under way since early July and have included air and naval manoeuvres in the East China Sea north of Taiwan, in the South China Sea and in the Philippine Sea east of Luzon.

In parallel the US is hosting Rimpac, the world’s largest naval exercise, which is taking place near Hawaii and includes nearly 30 countries but not China.

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