Thank you very much, Gen. [Enrique] Cervantes [Mexican minister of defense]. I have just been honored by a ceremony that demonstrated the best trained, most disciplined military I have ever seen. It is a truly elite military unit that can stand side by side with any other in the world and is one of which you can be proud.
Our well-being depends in the long run on the well-being of our neighbors. These words, spoken 60 years ago by Franklin Roosevelt, launched what came to be known as his good neighbor policy. President Clinton has taken these words to heart. When he hosted President [Ernesto] Zedillo [Ponce de Le¢n] in Washington just two weeks ago, he said: The stronger our trade, the greater the well-being of all of our people. The deeper our cooperation, the better we will be able to fight together our common problems. The more effective our partnership, the stronger an example we will be able to set for all the nations of our hemisphere.
Today, the United States and Mexico are not only good neighbors, we are good friends. And we have an opportunity to build an even stronger friendship that will benefit our entire neighborhood.
So I deeply appreciate Gen. Cervantes invitation to visit Mexico so we can deepen our friendship, and I am proud to be the first United States secretary of defense to do so. If recent events are any guide, I will not be the last U.S. secretary of defense to visit Mexico, because the United States and Mexico have entered a new era of cooperation in economic, political and security relations.
We have forged closer economic ties, first by signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, which replaced trade barriers with trade bridges, and then by joining together to prevent Mexico s monetary crisis from becoming a financial disaster. These steps recognize that the economic destiny of our two nations is inextricably linked -- that is, if one of our nations sneezes, the other catches a cold.
We also have forged closer political ties, which were highlighted when President Clinton and President Zedillo met. President Clinton applauded Mexico for its great strides in political and economic reform. And President Zedillo said our relationship is not only more dynamic and complex, it is also stronger and more promising.
Standing side by side, our two presidents showed the world that the United States and Mexico are good neighbors and good friends. My goal, and the goal of my visit, is to help our nations forge closer security ties, because when it comes to stability and security, our destinies are inextricably linked. So let us build a new bilateral security relationship based on openness, trust, cooperation and mutual respect.
This new cooperation has already begun in several areas. Our governments have been working together to disrupt the narcotraffickers that poison our children and threaten the personal safety of the citizens of both nations. The American people appreciate the Mexican military s commitment and dedication to fighting narcotics at the source. Your efforts have kept untold quantities of drugs out of the cities and schools of both of our countries.
Looking beyond our counternarcotics work, we have opportunities for cooperation in equipment modernization. Some programs have already begun, but we must jointly examine new areas where we can work together.
Another avenue toward a closer relationship is through exchanges, education and training. Nothing will do more to increase understanding than creating opportunities for our personnel to meet and study with each other.
These relations started at the top, when Gen. [Gordon] Sullivan [former U.S. Army chief of staff] and Gen. [Antonio] Riviello [former Mexican minister of defense] began developing a warm working relationship in 1992 -- and the relationship has continued with their successors. Indeed, when Gen. Sullivan retired, Gen. Cervantes came to Washington to join in the farewell festivities and during that visit invited me to come to Mexico.
Meanwhile, our navies have begun staff talks; our airborne forces have jumped out of each other s planes; U.S. military officers are teaching English at your military schools, while Mexican military officers are teaching Spanish at ours so we can communicate with each other better. And in the coming year we are doubling the budget that provides Mexican officers the opportunities for study at American military schools. Some of these funds can also be used to train civilians in defense affairs, helping civilians involved in defense establishments develop the skills necessary to work with the military.
Another fertile area for cooperation is disaster relief. The U.S. National Guard can learn from the Mexican military s heroic work in helping your nation recover from hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. And our National Guard could share its experience as well.
We should also cooperate in helping Mexico improve its capabilities to defend its sovereign air and sea space. This is not only important to the fight against narcotraffickers, but it is also a sovereign objective in and of itself. A strong Mexico, able to fully exert sovereignty over its territory, is important to both our countries because of our shared borders.
These are just some of the areas we can explore as we build a strong and secure security relationship. But as we pursue closer bilateral security ties, we must also look beyond the borders of our two nations because neither of our nations is an island. We live in a hemisphere that has undergone a sea change of epic proportions. All but one nation have chosen democracy.
The Cold War ideological battle is over. There is peace, a decline in insurgencies, and bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Our hemisphere is the least armed and militarized region in the world. Historical rivals are now trading partners, and all parts of the hemisphere are reaching out to one another. And we have a growing harmony of interests.
This presents the opportunity of the century for our hemisphere, an opportunity to secure a future of peace, stability and security for all of our nations. Our nations took advantage of this opportunity at the Summit of the Americas last December in Miami. There, our leaders endorsed a plan of action for our economic and political future, a future built on free trade, strong democratic institutions and growth that protects the environment; a future strengthened by a shared commitment to reduce poverty and corruption; and a future secured by a shared commitment to advance justice, education, health care and free enterprise.
While we advance these causes, we can also develop new security relations throughout the hemisphere, relations based on openness, trust and cooperation among all nations of the hemisphere. This is the right time for doing this. At a recent meeting of our hemispheric military and civilian security leaders at Williamsburg [Va.], I saw a shared understanding of some basic principles for protecting the security and stability of the region. What do we agree on?
We agree that the preservation and promotion of democracy is the basis for our mutual security.
We acknowledge that military security forces play a critical role in supporting and defending the legitimate interests of sovereign, democratic states.
We recognize that our countries armed forces should be subordinate to democratic authority, within the bounds of national constitutions, and they must respect human rights.
We agree on the value of openness in the discussion of defense matters through exchanges of information, and we have as a goal for our hemisphere the resolution of outstanding disputes by negotiation, not by war.
Finally, we agree on the value of promoting greater defense cooperation. Now, in addition to hemispheric commitment to upholding these principles, all our nations need to deepen their dialogue and consensus-building on how to strengthen and consolidate our democracies, and find ways to deepen personal relationships. I have found in my time as secretary of defense that these personal relationships are invaluable -- sometimes even more important than any written agreement.
We are seeing tangible results from this new approach to security relations in the hemisphere. In the area of conflict resolution, we have the experience and the agreement reached by Peru and Ecuador to demilitarize their border. The agreement was brokered by Brazil. Four nations -- Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the United States -- are the guarantors of the agreement. These nations have all placed observers in the demilitarized region, and we are proud of the role they play in contributing to a peaceful resolution of that conflict.
We are looking forward to increasing defense cooperation across a broad spectrum of areas. Already the annual UNITAS exercise helps navies work together. Soon we will see more joint exercises between the nations of the hemisphere -- particularly exercises organized around joint peacekeeping and humanitarian relief.
The ideas and proposals being discussed today in our hemisphere would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago. Indeed, only the most hopeful visionary would have dared to imagine the sweep of democracy through the hemisphere. Likewise, it was hard to imagine just 10 years ago that either of our two nations would enjoy the close relations we have today.
The great Mexican patriot Benito Juarez was one of these visionaries. Over a century ago he declared, Democracy is the destiny of future humanity. Today, what Juarez imagined is happening before our very eyes. And Mexico, with its democratically elected government, its basis of prosperity and professional armed forces, serves as a model to every nation that is reaching for these goals.
Together, the United States and Mexico are building a strong relationship, a relationship that already has two strong legs in our political and economic ties. Today we are beginning to construct the third leg, the bilateral security leg, which will enable our relationship to meet the challenges of the future. We will move forward in a number of areas, and we will do so in a spirit of cooperation and trust, and in a spirit of mutual respect. The future will see a new generation of Mexican and American military personnel sharing common experiences, training and objectives.
Mexico and America share a responsibility with other nations of the hemisphere to work together to make our half of the world more free, prosperous and safe. The way ahead will not be gentle or easy -- narcotrafficking, economic dislocation and natural disasters are just a few of the challenges.
But if we cooperate together, we can meet those as well as the unknown challenges of the future.
Thank you very much, Gen. Cervantes. I especially thank you for honoring me during this visit.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.