Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday accused NATO of whipping up tensions near China in a way that posed risks for Russia.
"The South China Sea is now becoming one of those regions where NATO is not averse, as they once did in Ukraine, to escalating tensions," Lavrov told a news conference.
"We know how seriously China takes such provocations, not to mention Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, and we understand that NATO's playing with fire in these regions carries threats and risks for the Russian Federation. It is as close to our shores and to our seas as Chinese territory," he said.
Lavrov said that was why Russia was developing military cooperation with China and conducting joint exercises.
"The fact that NATO members under the leadership of the United States are trying to create an explosive situation there, in the wake of Europe, is well understood by everyone," he said.
Lavrov did not provide evidence to back his assertions, but alluded to the formation of the AUKUS alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia.
He also accused NATO of trying to drag India into what he called an anti-Russian and anti-Chinese alliance at a time when he said the West was attempting to squeeze out Russian influence. (Reporting by Reuters Editing by Andrew Osborn)