During their summit meeting in Brussels, NATO leaders pledge to act together against China's "systemic challenge" as US President Biden renews Washington's transatlantic ties at his first summit with Western allies.

NATO heads of the states and governments pose for a family photo, in Brussels, Belgium on June 14, 2021.
NATO heads of the states and governments pose for a family photo, in Brussels, Belgium on June 14, 2021. (AFP)

NATO leaders have vowed to work together against the 'systemic challenge' posed by China's aggressive policies and put Russia on notice about its flouting of international law.

As US President Joe Biden renewed Washington's Transatlantic ties at his first summit with the Western allies, the leaders issued a broad statement of intent on Monday.

China's increasingly assertive actions in building a nuclear arsenal along with space and cyber warfare capabilities threatens the international order, they said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies would seek to cooperate with China on global issues like climate change, as European capitals wanted.

But, in a nod to Washington's growing concern, he warned: "China's growing influence and international policies present challenges to Alliance security.

"Leaders agreed that we need to address such challenges together as an alliance, and that we need to engage with China to defend our security interests.

"We are concerned by China's coercive policies," he said, citing Beijing's expanding nuclear arsenal.

READ MORE: NATO Summit: Stoltenberg says China not enemy but poses security challenges

A warning to Putin

In the summit communique, the leaders warned Russia's President Vladimir Putin, whom Biden will meet on Wednesday in Geneva, that there will be no quick return to "business as usual".

Russia's military build-up and provocative behaviour on NATO's eastern frontier "increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond".

The allies reiterated their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, demanding that Moscow "withdraw the forces it has stationed in all three countries without their consent".

Stoltenberg hailed what he said was Biden's strong commitment to NATO - an implicit contrast to the difficult ties under the previous US president, Donald Trump.

Biden: China is not our adversary

Arriving at NATO headquarters in Brussels for a summit with his 29 counterparts, Biden stressed that the alliance was "critically important" to US security.

"I think that there is a growing recognition over the last couple of years that we have new challenges," Biden told Stoltenberg at bilateral talks just ahead of the main summit.

"We have Russia that is not acting in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped, as well as China," he said.

"I want to make it clear: NATO is critically important for US interests in and of itself. If there weren't one, we'd have to invent it," he said.

And he stressed once again that Article 5 of the NATO treaty - the obligation of members to defend one another, once called into question by Trump - was a "sacred obligation".

"We're not entering a new Cold War and China is not our adversary, not our enemy," Stoltenberg told reporters as he arrived at NATO headquarters ahead of the leaders.

READ MORE: Russia and China will force a re-think at upcoming NATO summit

Turkey plays a key role in Kabul airport efforts

Summit also discussed NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan after Biden surprised partners by ordering US troops home by September 11.

On the table was Ankara's offer to secure Kabul airport after NATO troops leave, also other regional issues.

The final statement did not mention Turkey's role at the airport, but did stress that the alliance would continue to pay to keep the facility open.

"We are working on how to ensure the continuation of the international airport in Kabul, Turkey plays a key role in these efforts," Stoltenberg told reporters. 

Some allies are concerned about the rush to leave Afghanistan and some had questioned the strategy of an alliance that Macron warned in 2019 was undergoing "brain death".

READ MORE: Erdogan: Turkey, US must leave troubles behind at NATO meeting

READ MORE: NATO Summit: Stoltenberg says China not enemy but poses security challenges

Source: TRTWorld and agencies