Russia’s Shoigu accuses West of seeking to expand Ukraine war to Asia-Pacific

BEIJING (Reuters) -Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused the West on Monday of wanting to expand the conflict in Ukraine to the Asia-Pacific region, Russian state media reported.

Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest military diplomacy conference, Shoigu said the U.S.-led NATO alliance was “covering up the buildup of military force in the Asia-Pacific region with an ostentatious desire for dialogue, imposing alliances and lines of operational interaction on partners,” the TASS agency reported.

“Having provoked an acute crisis in Europe, the West is seeking to spread conflict potential to the Asia-Pacific region, and in several directions.”

Not only were NATO countries driving an Asian arms race, but the emergence of security blocs such as the Quad and AUKUS was also undermining the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and nuclear non-proliferation efforts in Asia, Shoigu said.

“The concept of ‘indivisibility of security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific region’ imposed by Westerners is intended to justify the emergence of alliance forces and infrastructure in Asia,” Shoigu said.

The Quad groups the U.S., Australia, India and Japan and says it aims to uphold peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

AUKUS brings together Australia, the United States and Britain, and provides for the sale of U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and the sharing of nuclear-propulsion technology with Australia, as well as joint development of high-tech weaponry.

Shoigu said U.S. forces’ exchanges of missile launch information with Tokyo and Seoul were intended to deter Russia and China.

Russia’s withdrawal of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty did not mean the end of the agreement, however, and Russia was not lowering its threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, merely restoring parity with the U.S., which has not ratified the treaty, he said.

Shoigu said Moscow was ready for talks on the post-conflict settlement of the Ukraine crisis and coexistence with the West, but only once Western countries stopped seeking Russia’s strategic defeat.

Western countries say they are equipping Ukraine with weaponry to resist a full-scale Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, begun in February 2022.

But leaders of some countries on NATO’s eastern frontier say that Moscow, even if it were defeated in Ukraine, may retain ambitions to recapture other territories on its western edge that were once part of the Soviet Union.

Driven by such fears, Finland has joined NATO, Sweden is likely to do so shortly, and NATO has bolstered its eastern defences.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Sydney; Writing by Liz Lee and Laurie Chen in Beijing, Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty, and Kevin Liffey; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Gerry Doyle and Jonathan Oatis)