NATO Places China Firmly in Its Sights As Joe Biden Strengthens Alliance

NATO leaders are expected to issue a statement criticizing China after their meeting in Belgium on Monday, as U.S. President Joe Biden strengthens his alliance with the intergovernmental organization.

Members of NATO, a military alliance between 30 European and North American countries that was set up in 1949 following World War II, met on Monday in Brussels, in what was Biden's first meeting with the group since becoming president.

Diplomats told Reuters that the summit's final statement on Monday would refer to China as a "systemic" challenge to the safety of NATO members, but would refrain from describing it as an "adversary."

Reuters reported that the group's members have become concerned with China's military rise and increasing closeness with Russia. Russia is not a member of NATO, but joined its Partnership for Peace program in 1994.

Ahead of Monday's meeting, Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security adviser, revealed that China "will feature in the communique in a more robust way than we've ever seen before."

Biden told reporters after arriving at the summit that "there is a growing recognition over the last couple years that we have new challenges. We have Russia, which is acting in a way that is not consistent with what we had hoped, and we have China."

The sentiment was also echoed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said: "When it comes to China, I don't think anybody around the table wants to descend into a new Cold War with China."

NATO's expected statement will follow criticism of China from leaders including Biden and Johnson at the G7 Summit that took place last Friday to Sunday. The pair, alongside other members, said that there needs to be a transparent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in the country and accused it of engaging in human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Responding to the criticism, the Chinese embassy in London said that "China's reputation must not be slandered" and called the mentions of Xinjiang and Hong Kong "sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States."

Biden's appearance at the summit on Monday should strengthen the U.S. relationship with NATO, after the organization's ties with the country weakened during former President Donald Trump's time in office.

During Trump's presidency, he criticized the amount of funding the U.S. was providing to NATO, as he complained that allies, particularly Germany, did not spend the stipulated membership amount of 2 percent of their defense budget on the group. All of the members have committed to that figure by 2024.

Reports swirled in 2018 that Trump was threatening to pull out of NATO. He canceled a planned press conference at the summit in 2019, as tensions rose between the U.S. and the 29 other countries with membership of the organization.

However, Biden took a different approach on Monday, as he confirmed that under his leadership, the U.S. will be committed to NATO.

"I want to make it clear: NATO is critically important for U.S. interests," Biden said as he arrived at the summit on Monday.

He went on to say that the U.S. has a "sacred obligation" to observe Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty, which commits members to defend each other from attack, and told NATO's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg: "I want NATO to know America is there."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

Biden signals commitment to Nato
TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base before departing for the UK and Europe to attend a series of summits on June 9, 2021, in Maryland. Nato leaders are expected to issue a statement criticizing China after their meeting in Belgium on Monday, as U.S. President Joe Biden signalled his commitment to the organization. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)