The top NATO military officer emphasized the “astounding” speed of China’s military modernization and warned that its diplomatic presence abroad is increasing because NATO is prepared to take a more confident stance against Beijing.

The comments of Sir Stewart Pitch, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, highlighted the widespread security challenges posed by China as coalition members strive to go beyond the diagnosis of the threat of the agreed plan of action.

“China is building ships so quickly, and the Chinese Air Force is so modernized. It is shocking how much it has invested in network and other forms of information management, especially facial recognition,” Pitch said. He will step down on Friday after three years as chairman of the NATO Military Commission-in an interview with the Financial Times before he leaves.

“I think it is very important to pay close attention to this. If you are a leader in China and have a modern and powerful force, what would you do? You deploy it, you move it,” he said, adding that NATO 30 Each member country “needs to do further work” to determine what China’s military ambitions mean to the alliance.

NATO leaders last week First warning China poses a “systemic challenge” to the rules-based international order, creates false information, cooperates with Russia and expands its nuclear arsenal.

But critics say that the alliance has not yet formulated a detailed China strategy, partly because of its internal differences and lack of tools to deal with China’s participation in European strategic infrastructure and other issues.

Pitch pointed out how Beijing has expanded its diplomatic influence through its “huge” embassy and other outposts in Brussels, which is also the main seat of the European Union, and NATO headquarters is also located there.

“You now have these large embassy footprints, a very large defense department, usually inhabited by generals. Then you just observe, as I have observed after nearly 50 years of service, what is all this for?” he asks.

Brussels has become the center of attention surrounding Chinese espionage and influence operations. Last year, the Belgian security agency accused Fraser Cameron, a Brussels think tank, of participating in a suspected Chinese purchase of influence. He previously worked for the European Commission and the British MI6 intelligence agency.

Cameron denied any wrongdoing and called these allegations “absurd.” Since then, Belgium has declined to comment further on the case and has not filed any charges in this regard.

The Chinese mission to the European Union stated in a statement that military exchanges and cooperation with other countries are “an important part of China’s overall diplomacy” and Beijing “is actively developing constructive military relations with other countries.”

Air Force Admiral Stuart Peach points out how Beijing can expand its diplomatic influence through its outposts such as its “huge” embassy in Brussels © PA

Prior to his appointment as NATO, Pitch served as the Chief of Defense Staff of the British Armed Forces. He stated that he noticed that the joint operations between Beijing and Moscow have grown from “relatively small” to “main exercise and training opportunities” in recent years. But he rejected any suggestion that the two countries are moving towards a strategic partnership.

The air marshal hinted that on the contrary, the melting of the Arctic ice opened up a northern sea route-which would speed up China’s sea route to Europe and open up a route for untapped energy and mineral supplies- competition Can be triggered between two forces. Moscow has opened new military facilities in the Arctic, while China has declared itself a “near-Arctic country.”

“I don’t see the long-term harmony between China and Russia in the Arctic,” Pitch said.

However, the outgoing person in charge of maintaining the diplomatic channel between NATO and the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, was not quite frank in their discussions.

“I have known General Gerasimov for many years… Our relationship is completely professional,” Pitch said. “The subject of our discussion is to ensure the safety of all of us.”

When preparing to return to London, the Air Marshal raised the prospect that NATO may need to find sources of funding beyond the goal of its member states’ commitment to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.

At this month’s summit, the allies agreed to set up a 1 billion euro fund Invest in new military technology, From artificial intelligence to robots. However, he suggested that more can be done. “If my convening power for this alliance is correct, then this is where we should think about the future,” Pitch said.

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