Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel Getty

Opposition politicians in Germany have called for the removal of US nuclear weapons from the country.

Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has backed a pledge by SPD party leader Martin Schulz to push for the removal of nuclear warheads in the country if the party are successful in September's elections.

Gabriel said at the end of an official visit to the US on Tuesday: "Of course I am convinced that we need to finally start talking about demilitarisation again.

"In this regard I agreed with Mr. Schulz's point that we need to get rid of the nuclear weapons that are in our country."

Schulz told a campaign rally in Trier last week that "as Chancellor of Germany I would commit to having the nuclear weapons which are stored here removed from the country."

There are no official numbers on how many nuclear weapons remain in Germany, but some estimates suggest that up to 20 may be based at the Büchel in the Eifel region in the west of the country.

The US has maintained a high military presence in Germany ever since the end of the Second World War.

There are dozens of military bases still in operation across large parts of former West Germany. At its peak towards the end of the Cold War, there were more than 200 US bases across the country.

A high number of personnel also remain in Germany. Figures from the US armed forces suggest that more than 34,000 members of the military are stationed there. This is more than any other country in the world, barring Japan, which is home to almost 40,000 troops.

With less than a month to go before Germans vote for their next chancellor, SPD candidates are pushing hard to sell policies that stand out from his rival, Angela Merkel, who is aiming for a fourth term in office.

After four years in coalition with Merkel's CDU, the SPD have struggled to make ground in the polls.

Current opinion polls suggest Merkel's CDU are set to comfortably be the largest party in the Bundestag after the election on the 24 September, with the SPD trailing by around 15 points.