Washington, Jul 11 (AP) In their most serious rebuke against Beijing, NATO allies on Wednesday called China a "decisive enabler" of Russia's war against Ukraine and expressed concerns over China's nuclear arsenal and its capabilities in space.

The sternly-worded final communiqué, approved by the 32 NATO members at their summit in Washington, makes clear that China is becoming a focus of the military alliance. The European and North American members and their partners in the Indo-Pacific increasingly see shared security concerns coming from Russia and its Asian supporters, especially China.

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Beijing has denied that it supports Russia's war efforts and insists that it conducts normal trade with its northern neighbour.

In the communiqué, NATO member countries said China has become a war enabler through its "no-limits partnership" with Russia and its large-scale support for Russia's defence industrial base.

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"This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbours and to Euro-Atlantic security. We call on the PRC, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a particular responsibility to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to cease all material and political support to Russia's war effort," read the communiqué, which referred to China by the abbreviation of its official name, the People's Republic of China.

Beijing has expressed displeasure at NATO's growing interest in Asia and demanded the alliance stay out of the Asia-Pacific region and not incite confrontation.

"NATO should not use China to justify its insertion into the Asia-Pacific and attempt to disrupt regional dynamics," said Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, on Tuesday. "China is a force for world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of international order."

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea sent their leaders or deputies to the NATO summit in Washington this week. They are partners, not members, of the alliance.

Danny Russel, a former assistant secretary of state for Asia and now vice president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute, called the new wording by NATO "an extraordinary step", particularly since it was coupled with the warning that Beijing continues to pose systemic challenges to European interests and security in the same communiqué.

"It is a mark of how badly Beijing's attempt to straddle Russia and Western Europe has failed and how hollow its claim of neutrality rings," Russel said. "China's attempts at divide-and-conquer have instead produced remarkable solidarity between key nations of the Euro-Atlantic and the Asia-Pacific regions."

In Washington, where leaders of NATO nations are convening this week to mark the coalition's 75th anniversary, US President Joe Biden said the alliance must not fall behind Russia, which is ramping up weapon production with the help of China, North Korea and Iran. Jens Stoltenberg, general secretary of NATO, said in his opening remarks that NATO would be enforcing its partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. (AP)

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