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President BIden with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Francois Mori/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

NATO leaders view China's growing influence, military prowess and assertive behavior as "systemic challenges to the rules-based international order," according to a communique released Monday.

Why it matters: It's the first time that NATO, which was founded in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union, has formally addressed the threat posed by China's military ambitions. The alliance did not, however, refer to China as a "rival" or "adversary."

Details ... NATO leaders addressed China in depth in the 55th section of their 79-section communique, raising concerns about the following "coercive policies":

  • China's rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal.
  • Military modernization and "publicly declared military-civil fusion strategy."
  • Military cooperation with Russia, including in the Euro-Atlantic area.
  • Frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation.

Yes, but: "Based on our interests, we welcome opportunities to engage with China on areas of relevance to the Alliance and on common challenges such as climate change," the communique adds. "Reciprocal transparency and understanding would benefit both NATO and China."

The big picture: President Biden embarked on his first international trip to the G7 and NATO summits with the goal of rallying allies to confront Beijing's economic and human rights abuses, which include — in the eyes of the U.S. State Department and several NATO-associated parliaments — the genocide of Uyghur Muslims.

  • Biden has met some resistance in that effort, as European leaders have long sought to tamp down the risk of confrontation and — in the case of Germany's Angela Merkel, for example — deepen economic ties with China.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference that he wanted "a strategic clarification" on NATO's purpose, telling reporters that "in my book, China isn’t part of the Atlantic geography, or maybe my map has a problem."
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that "China is coming closer to us" in terms of its military encroachment, infrastructure investment and cyber activities, but added that NATO is "not entering a new Cold War with China, and China is not our adversary, our enemy."

Between the lines: The communique references "Russia" 62 times, compared to just 10 times for "China" — a sign that NATO's main priority remains, for now, on Europe's eastern front.

Go deeper: Biden's European optimism collides with reality

Go deeper

Updated Jun 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Afghanistan, cyber defense on the agenda for Biden in Brussels

Joe Biden arrives at Melsbroek Military Airport in Brussels on June 13. Photo: Yves Herman/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden touched down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of two days of talks with NATO and European Union leaders as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Driving the news: Biden was greeted on the tarmac by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and a slate of other officials, including Douglas Jones and Mark Libby, the U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO and the EU respectively.

Jun 13, 2021 - World

G7 leaders agree to call out China's “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses"

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Cornwall Airport Newquay to give a press conference on the final day of the G7 summit on June 13, 2021. Photo: Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

Group of Seven leaders on Sunday announced they have agreed work together to challenge China’s “non-market economic practices” and to press Beijing to respect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Why it matters: President Biden went into the summit hoping to present a united front against Beijing.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 6 highlights

An underwater view of swimmers including Team USA's Caeleb Dressel (R) in the final of the Olympic Tokyo Games men's 100m freestyle on July 29. Photo: François-Xavier Marit/AFP via Getty Images

There's been plenty of Olympics drama on day six of the Tokyo Games Thursday — notably China's women's swimming team beating the U.S. and Australia in the record-setting 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

The big picture: Katie Ledecky helped the U.S. win silver, which also beat the previous world record smashed by China's team. Team USA grabbed two more swimming gold medals, when Caeleb Dressel won the men's 100m freestyle and Bobby Finke triumphed in the first men's Olympic 800m freestyle.