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US defence chief James Mattis hails NATO as 'fundamental bedrock'

He also sought to reassure allies about President Donald Trump's commitment to the alliance

AFP/PTI  |  Brussels 

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US Defence Secretary hailed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as the "fundamental bedrock" of transatlantic security as he sought to reassure allies on Wednesday about President Donald Trump's commitment to the alliance.

Mattis, who has been on the job less than a month, spoke as a scandal over officials' ties to gripped the presidency and claimed the job of the national security advisor.

"The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community, bonded as we are together," said as he met his counterparts in Brussels for the first time.

"As President has stated, he has strong support for NATO," said Mattis, a former Marine general who has himself previously served with

Mattis, however, stressed that the administration, like the Obama administration before it, expected allies to boost their defence spending.

"It's a fair demand that all who benefit from the best defence in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary cost to defend freedom," he added.

The 28-member organisation is trying to portray unity after Trump's previous comments that the alliance was "obsolete."

Since his inauguration, has taken a more orthodox stance on and reaffirmed long-standing US commitment to the alliance.

has consistently voiced support for and has been tougher on than his boss, whose views worry the alliance's eastern European member states in particular.

But Mattis's visit has been overshadowed by the resignation of Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn over allegations he had discussed US sanctions with Russia's ambassador before taking office.

chief Stoltenberg insisted the Flynn scandal was not a further cause for concern for the alliance, which has underpinned transatlantic security since the aftermath of World War II.

"I am absolutely certain that the message from this meeting will be a message of transatlantic unity," Stoltenberg said when asked about Flynn's resignation.

Stoltenberg said the ministers will also stress "the importance that we stand together and protect each other and a very strong commitment of the United States to "

said on the flight to Brussels that Flynn's departure would have "no impact" on the US message to

meanwhile praised the alliance for its enduring help for the United States in Afghanistan. "This has been the most successful alliance in military history," he said.

Also hanging over the meeting was a New York Times report that Moscow had deployed a new cruise missile, raising fears it would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Like the US State Department, the chief said he would not comment on intelligence matters but warned that "any non-compliance of with the INF treaty would be of serious concern for the alliance.

First Published: Wed, February 15 2017. 21:56 IST