MUNICH, Germany, Feb 16 (KUNA) -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, "which pose a threat to us all.
"All Allies are now within range of North Korean missiles. Pyongyang is closer to Munich than it is to Washington DC and therefore we must put maximum pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme, by political and diplomatic means and, not least, through effective economic sanctions," he said at the opening session of the Munich Security Conference.
"Russia and China have a special responsibility, as members of the UN Security Council and as neighbours of North Korea. Iran also possesses a proliferation concern. That is why NATO Allies place great importance on the Iran Nuclear Deal, but to be effective it must be properly implemented. All these developments forces us to pay more attention to nuclear threats.
"And let me be clear, NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as they exist NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. A world where Russia, China and North Korea have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is not a safer world. That is why the ultimate guarantee of NATO's security is the strategic nuclear forces of Allies, particularly those of the United States," he explained.
"We need to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. At the same time, Allies remain committed to reducing the number of nuclear weapons, in a balanced and verifiable way.
"And we have a strong track record. Since the height of the Cold War, NATO Allies have reduced the nuclear arsenal in Europe by 90 percent.
"In its recent Nuclear Posture Review, the US reconfirmed its commitment to nuclears -- nuclear arms control and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And United States has also reiterated its global leadership role in reducing the number of nuclear weapons.
"Only last week, Washington and Moscow announced that the limits of the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) have been reached, restricting United States and Russia to 1550 deployed warhead -- warheads each, down from 12,000 in 1994, when the first START Treaty came into force.
"That shows the importance of such landmark agreements. It shows that arms control can work and it shows that the risk of conflict can be effectively reduced.
"Our world may have become more dangerous, but conflict is not inevitable. To preserve the peace, we need the military strength of the NATO Alliance, combined with the political courage to seek dialogue, to deescalate, reduce tensions and find peaceful solutions to our differences. Then we move away from the brink of conflict, he concluded.
The Munich Security Conference, one of the world's foremost foreign and security policy forums, gathered 30 heads of state and government and more than 100 ministers of defense and foreign affairs with the focus being on the growing role of the European Union in security, conflict in the Middle East, and nuclear security. (end)