Stark warning over China move: 'Challenge to the world order'

The emergence of a 'strange new monster' on the world stage has Western allies increasingly focused on Australia's region.

The growing ties between China and Russia continue to send shockwaves through the international community with Japan and NATO pledging closer military cooperation amid warnings of the most precarious security situation since the Second World War.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Japanese premier Fumio Kishida have met to strengthen ties, saying Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its growing military alignment with China is dragging the world towards a dangerous bifurcation.

The comments came in a statement issued during Stoltenberg's trip to Japan following a visit to South Korea on which he urged Seoul to increase military support to Ukraine and gave similar warnings about rising tension with China.

"The world is at a historical inflection point in the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II," the two leaders said on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers a speech as he visits Japan Air Self-Defence Force base.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers a speech as he visits Japan Air Self-Defence Force's Iruma base, north of Tokyo, on Tuesday. Source: Reuters

Stoltenberg told reporters a Russian victory in Ukraine would embolden China at a time when it is building up its military, "bullying its neighbours and threatening Taiwan".

"This war is not just a European crisis, but a challenge to the world order," he added, arguing a similarly disastrous situation could unfold in Asia.

"Beijing is watching closely, and learning lessons that may influence its future decisions. What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow."

That crystallising realisation is why NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is a lot more interested in the Indo-Pacific these days, says Professor John Blaxland from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

"What we’ve seen is a reinvigoration and a fresh sense of engagement in the Indo-Pacific because of the 'no limits friendship' between Russia and China," he told Yahoo News Australia.

NATO moves to Asia

The events of 2022 have reaffirmed the mutual commitment among western military leaders. "For NATO, the United States matters more than they thought it did."

The creeping question in Europe in recent years of whether NATO really needed the US has "vaporised", Blaxland said, and in its place there is a "sense of needing to support the Unites states where it needs support." And that means moving to the Indo-Pacific.

"When you deal with a major challenge at one end of the Eurasian landmass, as the Europeans do, you realise you also have to deal with the other end as well."

Blaxland pointed to Germany as an example of a country which has historically showed little interest in the region but has since dramatically changed course. "Germany showed little military interest in the Indo-Pacific for the past 75 years, [but] in the last couple of years it has deployed a frigate and squadron of fighters to demonstrate solidarity and resolve in the region," he said.

While NATO groups 30 countries in Europe and North America, the military alliance has expanded its ties in Asia in recent years, much to the chagrin of Beijing. Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol became the first leaders from their countries to attend a NATO summit last year, joining as observers.

Also late last year, Japan unveiled sweeping plans to beef up its defence capabilities, changes once unthinkable for a pacifist country that will make it the third-biggest military spender after the United States and China.

NATO and Asian cooperation to combat 'strange new monster'

Bolstering its co-operation with NATO in areas from maritime security and arms control to cyberspace and disinformation will further help to respond to the changing strategic environment, the statement from Tuesday's meeting said.

The meeting comes less than six months after Australia's opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie delivered a speech in the US in which he described the Russia and China alliance as "a strange new monster" emerging on the world stage.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds talks with China's President Xi Jinping.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds talks with China's President Xi Jinping on December 30, 2022. Source: Reuters

"As they struck their no limits partnership in February this year, Xi and Putin created a strange new monster," he told the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.

"This monster nurses a hard grievance against America and the global order she protects."

That sentiment was echoed by Professor Blaxland, who told Yahoo that no matter the differences between Western leaders, "the bottom line is that they all still believe in that order." And no matter where they are on the globe, they are increasingly eager to protect it.

with Reuters

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