A visiting US delegation and NATO allies held a meeting here Tuesday to discuss the controversial missile defense plan proposed by US president George W. Bush’s administration.
"I very much welcome today's briefing by a US delegation on the latest administration thinking on missile defense and new concepts of deterrence," NATO Secretary General George Robertson said.
At NATO headquarters, the first stop on a European leg of a diplomatic drive that also takes in Asia, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman said that NATO allies welcomed the consultations, recognizing the threat from a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"As the US team made clear, we have entered a thinking process in which we are not just exchanging information, but truly considering together the new challenges we face and how best to deal with them," Robertson said in a statement.
"The determination to have a genuine dialogue with other concerned parties, especially Russia and China, was also widely welcomed," the NATO chief said.
"Today's meeting shows the determination of all NATO's members to continue working together to find answers to the new risks and problems of the 21st Century. I look forward to our continuing dialogue on these vital issues," he added.
The American delegation started its global tour to drum up support for the US missile defense plans, which had been questioned by Washington's European allies.
The missile defense system could ultimately be based around a global network of missile interceptors that could require upgrading existing US early warning radar stations in Britain and Greenland.
Many Europeans are skeptical about the proposed missile shield' s capability after some test failures. They are also concerned that the United States should not tear up key arms control treaties with Russia that limit such defenses.
Grossman said the key for now was to talk closely with allies rather than try to get down to specific details. "This close relationship with friends and allies and the consultative process is extremely, extremely important," he told reporters in Brussels.
Asked if the United States was sizing up allies' readiness to help with the costs of developing the missile defense system, Grossman said: "We're not there yet."
"What we were trying to do today was to expand peoples' minds and see how we want deterrence to function in the 21st century. The decisions about how, when and how much are still to come."
The U.S. delegation to Europe is due to visit Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Italy and Turkey before the talks with Russia.