China on Thursday called for "high vigilance" by countries in the region following a media report that NATO was planning to open an office in Japan to hold consultations with allies in the Indo-Pacific, emphasising that Asia should not be a "wrestling ground" for geopolitical competition.
NATO is planning to open a liaison office in Japan, the first of its kind in Asia, Nikkei Asia reported on Wednesday.
The office in Tokyo will allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to conduct periodic consultations with Japan and key partners in the region such as South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as China emerges as a new challenge, alongside its traditional focus on Russia, the report said, citing Japanese and NATO officials.
Reacting sharply to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that Beijing did not view this favourably and it will inevitably undermine regional peace and stability and stoke camp confrontation.
"Asia is an anchor for peace and stability and a promising land for cooperation and development, not a wrestling ground for geopolitical competition," Mao said in response to a question posed by Russia's official Tass news agency.
"NATO’s continued eastward foray into the Asia-Pacific and interference in regional affairs will inevitably undermine regional peace and stability and stoke camp confrontation. This calls for high vigilance among regional countries," she added.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has previously said that Tokyo welcomes the increased involvement of NATO member states in the Indo-Pacific region, where China has become increasingly assertive militarily.
During an extended session of the two-day NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Brussels last month, Hayashi also pledged to boost Japan's cooperation with the trans-Atlantic alliance amid an increasingly volatile global security environment, made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Japan cannot achieve its goal of realising a "free and open Indo-Pacific," a term popularised by the late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on its own, Hayashi was quoted as saying by Japan's Kyodo news agency.
The concept has been used to raise awareness about Beijing's growing military and economic clout in the region.
China's reaction also comes ahead of the third summit of the Quad grouping in Sydney, Australia on May 24.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and US President Joe Biden - are scheduled to attend the summit.
Beijing has previously criticised the Quad grouping, saying it is actually a closed and exclusive "clique" targeting China.
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