In an interview with Russian state-owned news agency TASS, Zhang claimed that the military bloc led by the United States has been "fanning the flames [of conflict] everywhere, destroying stability and engaging in separatism." He then blamed the U.S. and NATO for past and present conflicts in Kosovo, Libya and Afghanistan.
Zhang further claimed that the five recent NATO expansions into Eastern Europe has "seriously affected the post-Cold War order and security [situation] in Europe and became the main reason for the escalation in the Ukraine crisis." (Related: Zelensky warns war is coming to Russia as Moscow downs three more Ukrainian drones.)
"Being a Cold War relic, NATO should have ceased to exist when the Cold War ended," he added. Zhang then lamented how NATO was allowed to keep prospering by instigating conflicts all over the world.
"Facts show that wherever NATO extends its diabolical hands, there will be no peace and people will be dying," he said.
Russia has for years called on the U.S. to halt NATO's expansion, calling it a threat to Russian national security. President Vladimir Putin himself noted that the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining the military bloc was one of the key reasons for the special military operation in the country.
Kyiv itself has for years been speaking publicly about its ambition to join NATO and it even formally applied to join the bloc last fall. However, NATO itself seems reluctant to approve Ukraine's application, citing the ongoing hostilities. U.S. President Joe Biden himself said he does not think Ukraine "is ready for membership in NATO," claiming that it takes a long time for applicants to meet all of the bloc's qualifications.
In his interview with TASS, Zhang noted that in recent years NATO has also begun setting its sights on expanding into the Asia Pacific region under the guise of helping countries exercise their right to collective defense, a strategy that he said "causes great concern and strong objections from the regional countries."
Speaking for the Chinese communist government in Beijing, Zhang called on NATO to not stay rooted in its Cold War mentality and drop its plans to expand into the Asia Pacific region.
"The Cold War mentality and confrontation between the camps have long run counter to the demands of modern times," said Zhang, adding that NATO's regional expansion "will only increase regional tensions, widen the trust gap … provoke a stand-off between different camps and even a new Cold War."
"We insist that NATO meet the calls of the times, heed the calls of Asia Pacific countries for peace and development, adjust its erroneous attitude, drop the Cold War mentality and refrain from moving to the Asia Pacific Region," Zhang warned.
Zhang's warnings come as China raises more and more concerns about the possibility that U.S.-aligned nations in the Asia Pacific region – especially Japan – entertain the notion that they may one day become NATO members.
Without naming the other countries involved, Zhang warned Japan "and other courtiers" to "learn the lessons of history in full" by not even entertaining the possibility of participating in NATO's expansion into the Asia Pacific. This, he claimed, will only "undermine peace and stability in the region."
"Like they say: Let the wolf into the sheepfold, it will take a bite on every sheep," said Zhang.
This warning came after, earlier this year, NATO considered opening a liaison office in Japan. Tokyo reportedly considered the idea before it was shot down by French President Emmanuel Macron, who wanted to soothe France's relations with China right before his trip there.
If NATO had proceeded with this plan, it would have become the bloc's first such facility in the Asia Pacific.
Beijing itself has warned that, if NATO proceeds with any other potential expansion plans into Asia, it would show a "resolute response" to "safeguard its sovereignty." Beijing added that "any actions that damage China's legitimate rights and interests" will be met with "a resolute response" to "safeguard its sovereignty."
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Watch this clip from Red Voice Media discussing how U.S. foreign policy and NATO expansion are pushing China and Russia into becoming closer allies.