SEOUL-- The chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said Thursday North Korea poses "a clear and present danger" and called for increased diplomatic and economic pressure to end its threat peacefully.

"NATO is always ready to respond to and counter any attack from any direction. That's the way NATO has handled ballistic threats for decades ... that's the way we respond to nuclear threats today also when they are coming from North Korea," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference in Seoul.

"NATO and our partners are deeply concerned by threats posed by North Korea," he said.

The former Norwegian prime minister arrived in Seoul Wednesday for a three-day visit to discuss ways to boost NATO's cooperation with South Korea and their joint efforts to rein in North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile capabilities.

He met President Moon Jae-in earlier on Thursday and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha the previous day.

"It is also a fact to NATO allies that North Korea is developing ballistic missiles capable of hitting cities both in North America and Europe," he said, calling the North Korean capability "a clear and present danger" to NATO partners in the Asian region.

"NATO takes that threat very seriously. The alliance maintains a strong deterrence posture," he warned. "We have the capability and resolve to respond to any aggression."

He said NATO is currently focused on using diplomatic, economic and political sanctions against North Korea to achieve a "peacefully negotiated" resolution of the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

"The focus now is on how can we put pressure on North Korea to induce them to re-engage in real constructive talks," he said, stressing the importance of full implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions against the regime.

"North Korea must understand that complying with international law is not optional and that ruling by fear and menace puts the regime on the wrong side of history," he said.

"Increased pressure on North Korea, with economic, diplomatic and political means, is the best way to make sure this crisis on the Korean Peninsula is solved in a peaceful and negotiated way," he stressed.

Source: Yonhap News Agency