U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he is "absolutely" committed to NATO's Article 5, the keystone principle of the North Atlantic alliance that an attack on one alliance member is an attack against all.
Trump made the statement on June 9 at a news conference in Washington with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in response to a question about the U.S. commitment to respecting Article 5 in case of military aggression on NATO's eastern flank.
"I'm committing the United States and have committed the United States to Article 5, and certainly, we are there to protect, and that's one of the reasons why I want people to make sure that we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. But yes, absolutely, I'd be committed to Article 5," Trump said.
When Trump spoke at the alliance's gathering in Belgium last month, he did not make reference to Article 5.
Trump's omission in Brussels raised concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. White House aides said that the president's support was implied even though he deliberately did not utter the words.
According to Politico, Trump's defense and security advisers had included in his prepared speech a clear endorsement of the mutual-defense pledge, but Trump himself struck it out just before speaking.
Doubts have remained since then despite U.S. diplomats and military leaders themselves restating the pledge to Article 5.
The only time that Article 5 was invoked was after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001.
Praise For Romania
Trump earlier praised NATO member Romania for boosting its defense spending to 2 percent of its GDP, as required for all NATO members, and for its contribution to the fight against terrorism.
Trump thanked the "Romanian people for everything they contribute to our common defense and to the fight against the evil menace of terrorism."
"They have their own difficulties with it, and they've come a long way, and they're doing a lot," he added.
"Romania has been a valuable member of the coalition to fight [Islamic State] and it's the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan."
He mentioned that 23 Romanian soldiers had paid the "ultimate price" in Afghanistan and that "America honors their sacrifice."
He praised Romania for committing this year to increase its defense spending from 1.4 percent of GDP to "over 2 percent," a level which Trump has urged all NATO members to reach.
"We hope our other NATO allies will follow Romania's lead," he added.
Iohannis, speaking in English, said the partnership with the United States over the past 20 years had helped shape the Romania of today, calling his country a "solid democracy" with "solid, sustainable economic growth."
"I think this partnership not only has to continue, the partnership has to become stronger," he said.
Iohannis, who assumed the presidency in 2014, has supported a pro-Western foreign policy.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa