China said the Asia-Pacific region "does not need" a new military bloc, urging NATO to maintain its original geographical position and play a constructive role in the region's peaceful and stable development.
“The Asia-Pacific region is China’s place to settle down,” China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
However, Wang said, “some NATO member states have sent ships and planes to activities around China," China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Wang and Stoltenberg held a video meeting on Monday evening, the same day that the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond sailed through the Taiwan Strait, inviting criticism from Beijing.
The Chinese foreign minister insisted that the Asia-Pacific region “does not need to establish a new military bloc, nor should it cause confrontation between major powers, nor should it engage in small circles designed to instigate a new Cold War.”
“NATO should adhere to its original geographical positioning and play a constructive role in the peaceful and stable development of the region,” Wang said.
The US is leading a loose security bloc along with Australia, Japan, and India – known as Quad which held its face-to-face summit last week in Washington.
Beijing has pushed back such an arrangement, seen as an arrangement to counter China's expanding influence especially in the contested South China Sea, saying any regional cooperation mechanism “should not target or harm the interests of a third party.”
“A closed, exclusive clique targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of regional countries,” Zhao Lijian, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said ahead of last Friday’s Quad summit. “It will find no support and is doomed to fail.”
The South China Sea is claimed by China and several other regional countries, and the continuing US and naval operations by her allies in the Taiwan Strait, part of the disputed sea, have angered China.
'Beijing open to dialogue'
Wang, however, told the NATO chief that China is “open to dialogue and exchanges.”
“Faced with the current global challenges, more than ever, the international community needs to unite and cooperate, increase understanding, and build mutual trust,” the Chinese top diplomat said.
He added China and NATO agree that dialogue and exchanges should be “strengthened to enhance mutual understanding.”
“The key to advancing the relationship between the two parties is to solve the problem of mutual understanding, to treat each other in a rational and objective manner, not to listen to false information, and not to be confused by lies and rumors,” Wang said. “China has not been and will not be an opponent of NATO in the future.”
Wang said China is pursuing a “defensive national defense policy” and “does not seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence.”
According to the Chinese statement, the NATO chief called China “an important global force.”
“China has made great achievements in economic development and poverty alleviation, bringing development opportunities to the world,” he said.
NATO has been in contact with China since last year, Stoltenberg said, adding that the “bilateral relations have made positive progress.”
“NATO does not regard China as an adversary. It is willing to develop a constructive relationship with China,” he said.
The two sides also discussed the situation in Afghanistan.
China’s assertions in the South China Sea are based on its “nine-dash line” – purple dashes on official Chinese maps that denote Beijing’s historical claims on the sea.
Beijing has refused to acknowledge the presence of the US in the region, dismissing it as “interference by an outsider.”
Despite China’s warnings that the sea “should not become a battleground for big powers,” a recent study found the US surveyed the South China Sea “on an almost daily basis” in the first half of this year.