The NATO summit wrapped up here in the Lithuanian capital amid divisions among members and opposition from the international community.
During the summit concluding on Wednesday, NATO adopted its “most comprehensive defence plans since the end of the Cold War” and endorsed a new defence production action plan.
Under the new plans, NATO aims to have 300,000 troops fully ready for action, Xinhua news agency reported.
NATO allies have also made an “enduring commitment” to invest at least two per cent of their GDP annually in defence, according to a statement published at the summit.
Only 11 of the alliance’s 31 members have reached or exceeded this target after “nine consecutive years of increased defence spending” since 2014, documents released at the summit showed.
NATO leaders also pledged to provide more long-term support to Ukraine and held the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. However, they failed to set a timetable for Ukraine’s membership in the alliance, which Zelensky has called “unprecedented and absurd”.
NATO members have been divided on how to bring Ukraine closer to their bloc. While some Eastern European members are pressing for an explicit commitment on when Ukraine will join, the US and Germany are reluctant to clarify, according to some reports.
A regional alliance between Europe and North America, NATO again invited leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, the so-called partners in the Asia-Pacific region, to attend its summit for the second time and vowed to “further strengthen dialogue and cooperation to tackle our shared security challenges,” according to the statement.
In the statement, the military bloc mentioned China 15 times, saying that “China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values” and that China posed “systemic challenges” to the alliance.
In response, China on Wednesday rejected such claims.
“What’s said in the NATO statement is a complete opposite of the truth and the product of Cold War mentality and ideological bias. China strongly opposes it,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing.
“We urge NATO to stop making groundless accusations and provocative rhetoric targeting China, quit the outdated Cold War mentality, ditch the wrongdoing of seeking absolute security. We have seen what NATO has done to Europe, and NATO must not seek to sow chaos here in the Asia-Pacific or elsewhere in the world,” he added.
Leading up to the two-day summit, protests against NATO were held in several European countries, including major countries like Britain and France.