Belgium can still neither confirm nor deny that it houses nuclear weapons in its territory, Outgoing Defence Minister Didier Reynders said Thursday after a draft document revealed that U.S. nuclear bombs were stored in a Belgian airbase.
“The Belgian stance has always been to neither confirm nor deny” the presence of nuclear weapons in the country, Reynders said as he was questioned by a defence committee in the Chamber of Representatives on Thursday, according to Le Soir.
Referring to a draft report in which Belgium was listed as one of several European countries storing U.S. nuclear weapons, Reynders said that he had seen no “official” NATO document, but a draft report.
The report —published on the website of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in April but modified last week to remove details regarding the location of the nuclear heads in Europe— prompted politicians to call on the government to let the issue be openly debated.
But Reynders said that he had no intention of breaking with the years-long policy and that any change to it would have to be approved by parliament.
In his statement, Reynders said that Belgium’s shared vision of a nuclear-free world was a “long-term one” which would have to go hand in hand with the “universalisation” of the agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, which Belgium ratified.
In the meantime, Reynders said that Belgium would continue to follow NATO’s policies of “dissuasion.”
As the news picked up steam in Belgian media, NATO sought to distance itself from the document by highlighting that it was “not an official NATO document,” but a draft report by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, a position that was echoed in Reynders’ statements on Thursday.