The first-ever participation of the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in a NATO summit in late June has fueled speculation that the transatlantic military alliance is seeking to expand into the Indo-Pacific region, with the West aiming to strengthen regional security partnerships to counter Russia, China and North Korea.

In particular, Pyongyang and Beijing have warned about what they see as NATO’s attempt to extend its geographical scope and assert military supremacy in Asia — North Korea has threatened to further bolster its defenses and China has said that such an expansion could lead to turmoil and conflict.

A few days before the NATO meeting in Madrid, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned during a virtual summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — known as BRICS — that some nations were attempting to “expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides and pursuing unilateral dominance at the expense of others’ rights and interests.”