NATO should consult with countries outside Europe before launching action following the terrorist attacks in the United States, China's vice foreign minister Wang Guangya said on Thursday.
Wang later also told reporters that China would not rule out assisting military action if such operations were to be decided under a broader framework, such as the United Nations.
"Any action taken will have its implications for other regions, so it's better that consultation be conducted," said Wang, answering questions at a press conference in Beijing on a separate issue.
"NATO is a regional military organisation within Europe, so if action is taken beyond Europe, it will have implications. So that's why I think consultation is needed," he said.
In a powerful message of solidarity with the US on Wednesday, the 19 NATO members agreed the alliance would support any US response to the attacks under the terms of Article Five of the Washington Treaty.
This states that an armed attack against any ally in Europe or North America should be considered an attack against them all.
Wang said the decision on how to respond to the terrorist act -- already described as the worst in recorded history -- should rather be taken in a multilateral forum like the UN.
"Certainly the international community should take resolute actions against international terrorism, but I think that this action should be taken within the framework of international cooperation," he said.
"Therefore, personally I would prefer these things to be done through some multilateral framework, such as a the United Nations Security Council," he said.
Wang said Chinese assistance in military action taken against those who perpetrated the terrorist attacks would depend on which form these actions would eventually take.
"I think we will study the case when evidence is being presented. Our attitude towards international cooperation against terrorism is positive," he told reporters. "It all depends on the final formula."
Thousands may have died after three hijacked US airliners slammed into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon military headquarters near Washington D.C.
US authorities fear the death toll could even exceed that caused by the Japanese attack December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which triggered US entry into World War II.