NATO Secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Monday that the transatlantic alliance attaches great importance to relations with China.
But he proposes a step-by-step approach should be taken in the development of ties, saying it is important that the two sides lay a foundation for good relations first.
"I attach great value to a good China-NATO relationship," de Hoop Scheffer told Chinese journalists at a NATO reception.
"China is a very important nation indeed -- economically, politically, militarily. So what happens in China, and what policy China has is relevant to NATO allies."
NATO's operations are also relevant to China, he said, citing NATO's quake relief activities in Pakistan and its peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan, two of China's neighbors.
He said he has been in touch with the Chinese ambassador in Brussels so both sides remain updated on NATO's activities and the situation in China.
Asked whether he anticipates any regular dialogue with China, de Hoop Scheffer said he preferred an incremental process.
"Let's take a step-by-step approach. Let's not build a big castle before we have laid the foundation. We need a foundation first."
(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2006)