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MUNICH (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged policymakers on Friday "not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution" to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program, saying a military solution would have "catastrophic consequences."
Guterres told the Munich Security Conference that the world faces the threat of a nuclear conflict for the first time since the end of the Cold War because of events surrounding North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and stressed the need for global pressure for a diplomatic solution.
He said it's necessary to ensure that the U.S. and North Korea can "come together and have a meaningful discussion."
"I believe the United States is ready to do so," he said. "It's absolutely essential to keep the pressure over North Korea and to convince North Korea that it is absolutely vital for them to come to the table."
The comments came on the first day of the conference, which runs through Sunday. Those attending in the American delegation headed by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis include National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and CIA head Mike Pompeo. Other participants include British Prime Minister Theresa May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the group the fact that "all allies are now within the range of North Korean missiles" means that all nations need to continue with economic sanctions and diplomatic measures to "put maximum pressure" for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
"NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as they exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance," Stoltenberg said. "A world where Russia, China and North Korea have nuclear weapons but NATO does not is not a safer world."
Amid the concerns about nuclear weapons, Guterres warned that other security challenges also remained at a critical level.
He said ongoing conflicts in the Middle East like the war in Syria are "more and more interrelated" and now have implications far beyond the region, whether it be through global terrorism or the mass numbers of displaced people seeking refuge in Europe and elsewhere.
He said there are many "fault lines" stoking the conflict, including the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslim nations and "the memory of the Cold War that is still there."
"All these different fault lines crossing each other have created the situation that there's an authentic quagmire," he said.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story
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