The China Project
May 24, 2023
NATO official visits Taiwan as patchwork approach to countering Beijing emerges
NATO Defense College confirmed a previously unreported meeting in Taiwan in March. It’s just one of an array of regional and global moves aimed at restraining China’s future military options.
In late March, as global media focused on how China might respond to Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen’s imminent meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a lesser-known figure made a quiet trip to Taiwan that went completely unnoticed.
Lieutenant General Olivier Rittiman, commandant of NATO Defense College in Rome, met with his counterparts at National Defense University in the verdant hills of northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan, near the island country’s top military R&D center.
Rittiman’s visit was not reported in Taiwanese media, nor was it noted on the website of Taiwan’s war college. But in a short response to an information request by The China Project, NATO Defense College confirmed Rittiman’s visit, which it said took place from March 27 to 31….
NATO eyeing Indo-Pacific pivot
Interactions between NATO and Taiwan are not unprecedented, but their scope remains unclear, with both sides typically tight-lipped. What is clear, however, is that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to give NATO its full name, has begun to pay much more attention to the Indo-Pacific due to threats posed by China to countries in the region, especially Taiwan.
NATO is not new to the neighborhood. It began informal engagement with Japan in 1979, and upgraded these to official exchanges in the early 1990s. NATO began dialogue with South Korea in 2005, while more recently, in a forum in Seoul this January, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg called on South Korea to provide weapons to Ukraine. Australia has been engaging with NATO since 2005.
[B]oth NATO and Taiwan are becoming more willing to discuss their interactions publicly.