Boris Johnson has insisted he does not want a new “Cold War” with China as world leaders descended on Brussels for a Nato summit.
The Prime Minister sought to paint Britain as a big beast on the world stage by highlighting the amount of money it contributes to the western military alliance and talking tough on Russia and China.
Asked if he shared US President Joe Biden’s opinion that China was a threat that Nato had not taken seriously enough, he replied: “I don’t think anybody around the table today wants to descend into a new Cold War with China.
“I don’t think that’s where people are. But I think people see challenges, they see things that we have to manage together. But they also see opportunities.”
Mr Johnson also told reporters he was “hopeful” that things will improve with Russia but added: “I am afraid that so far, it’s been pretty disappointing from the UK point of view.
“And I know that when I saw President Putin, I made that very clear. I said ‘look we’re ready to do things differently, we’re ready to try to have closer relations, but you’ve got to change the way you behave’.
“And you remember what happened at Salisbury, where innocent members of the public faced the poisoning from Novichok, where one woman tragically lost her life and that’s no way to behave.
“Nato allies stood by Britain then and I know that President Biden will be taking some pretty tough messages to President Putin in the course of the next few days.”
China hits back at ‘slander'
China denounced a joint statement by the G7 leaders that scolded Beijing over a range of issues as a gross interference in the country’s internal affairs, and urged the group to stop slandering China.
The G7 leaders on Sunday took China to task over human rights in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait - all highly sensitive issues for Beijing.
China’s embassy in London said it was strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to mentions of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan that distorted the facts and exposed the "sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States".
With the Covid pandemic still raging and global economy sluggish, the international community needs unity and cooperation of all countries rather than "cliquey" power politics sowing division, it added.
China is a peace-loving country that advocates cooperation, but also has its bottom lines, the embassy said.
"China’s internal affairs must not be interfered in, China’s reputation must not be slandered, and China’s interests must not be violated," it added.
"We will resolutely defend our national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and resolutely fight back against all kinds of injustices and infringements imposed on China."
Taiwan’s government welcomed the G7 statement, saying the Chinese-claimed island will be a "force for good" and that they will continue to seek even greater international support.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday’s statement from the G7 was a significant move forward for the group as leaders rallied around the need to "counter and compete" with China on challenges ranging from safeguarding democracy to the technology race.
President Biden is expected to use the summit to distance himself from his predecessor President Trump who threatened to quit the western alliance and berated allies over their financial contributions.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said world leaders would recommit to working together after the “challenging discussions” of the Trump years.
Signalling a return to a more stable relationship, the alliance’s secretary general said it “means a lot” to have a US president who supports Nato as “strongly” as President Biden does.
Asked about the Trump years, he replied: “I’m not denying that we had some challenging discussions, but Nato remained strong throughout those years.”
Mr Stoltenberg is stepping down from the role next year with former British Prime Minister Theresa May among those tipped for the post.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson plans to use the summit to urge fellow leaders to redouble their commitment to collective security and invest in tackling cyberattacks as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nato gathering follows the G7 summit in Cornwall where the leaders of the major industrial nations met and President Biden declared: “Diplomacy is back.”
However, the continuing diplomatic row over Northern Ireland marred the final day of the summit.
Mr Johnson insisted he would do whatever it takes to protect Britain’s “territorial integrity” as the government traded insults with French President Emmanuel Macron over Brexit.
At the summit, the G7 also pledged one billion Covid vaccine doses to poor countries.