NATO calls Albanese to summit as China, Russia threaten global order

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been invited to the next NATO summit amid fears of a “growing alignment” between China and Russia.

Australia is not a NATO member, but The Australian reports Mr Albanese has been called to the July 11-12 gathering in Lithuania.

He has been invited along with other non-NATO members in the Asia-Pacific — Japan, South Korea and New Zealand — as the alliance seeks to strengthen ties in the region.

Mr Albanese attended last year’s NATO summit in Madrid.

NATO’s embrace of outside nations comes as its chief Jens Stoltenberg last week warned China and Russia were stepping up joint military activities in the Indo-Pacific.

Over the Easter weekend, China was conducting three days of military drills near Taiwan.

Mr Stoltenberg also accused China of refusing to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

“(China) echoes Russian propaganda. And it props up Russia’s economy,” he said.

“At a time when Beijing and Moscow are pushing back against the rules-based international order, it is even more important that we continue to stand together.”

NATO last week welcomed Finland into the alliance in a historic policy shift, sparking a threat from the Kremlin of Russian “countermeasures”.

It’s not yet known if Mr Albanese will attend the upcoming summit, but Lithuania’s top national security adviser Kestutis Budrys reportedly confirmed the invite to The Australian.

China war games

Meanwhile tensions have been high in the Pacific over the weekend as China’s military simulated precision strikes against Taiwan during drills around the island.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, began three days of military exercises on Saturday, the day after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States.

Taiwan’s defence ministry on Sunday said it had spotted 58 Chinese aircraft, including Su-30 fighters and H-6 bombers, as well as nine ships, around Taiwan.

The ministry said they were paying particular attention to the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force which is in charge of China’s land-based missile system.

It reiterated that Taiwan’s forces will “not escalate conflicts nor cause disputes” and would respond “appropriately” to China’s drills.

Life in Taiwan has continued as normal, with no sign of panic or disruption from the Chinese drills.

A photo from the Taiwan Ministry of National Defence showing a Chinese Navy destroyer being monitored in the Taiwan Strait. Photo: AAP

Last August, following a visit to Taipei by then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China staged war games around Taiwan, including firing missiles into waters close to the island.

While in Los Angeles last week, on what was officially billed a transit on her way back from Central America, Ms Tsai met the current speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, despite Beijing’s warnings against it.

The de facto US embassy in Taiwan said on Sunday the United States was monitoring China’s drills around Taiwan closely and is “comfortable and confident” it has sufficient resources and capabilities regionally to ensure peace and stability.

Russian attacks over Easter

In Ukraine, Russia continued to launch strikes as war-weary citizens were celebrating Easter.

At least two people died in fresh Russian attacks in the city of Zaporizhzhya.

A man and an 11-year-old girl were killed when a missile hit a private home, authorities in the southern Ukrainian city said on Sunday.

The head of the presidential office in Kiev, Andriy Yermak, posted a photo of the wrecked house on his Telegram messaging channel. He called the attackers “mean animals”.

Russia has annexed the Zaporizhzhya region but does not control the regional capital.

Yermak and other members of the Ukrainian leadership wished a happy Easter to Ukrainians who — like Christians in the West — were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said that the holiday also symbolised the victory of life over death.

In Ukraine, more and more Christians now celebrate their holidays according to the Western rite rather than the old Julian calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, which does not celebrate Easter for another week.

Traditionally, Orthodox Christians in Ukraine celebrated the church holidays in the same way as in neighbouring Russia.

With the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the public discussion became stronger to distinguish themselves from Russia also by changing the church calendar.

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