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Transcript of Secretary Hagel's media availability en route to Mexico

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
April 23, 2014

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Hi. Let's get back to business.

Tomorrow we're going to be down for a couple of days in Mexico City.

And there are three I think really critical focuses of what we’re -- what we're going to be talking about -- and I think (inaudible) as to why I put a priority on this.

You know, this is my first trip south of the border as the secretary of defense -- and here's just a little background. I've been to most of the countries in Central America; I've not been to Nicaragua.

I've been to Guatemala, I've been to Honduras, I've been to Panama and Costa Rica. I've not been to Nicaragua, but I've been to most of the Latin America countries.

I’m trying to think of which ones I’ve not been to -- Bolivia, though -- I've not been to Bolivia. (Inaudible).

Three things that I'm going to try to emphasize here - the main reasons.

One is just the continuation of what President Obama did when he was down here earlier this year - the North American Leadership Conference leadership and leaders (inaudible) -- that is a focus on regions; the importance of a region.

That our neighbors in Honduras just now have (inaudible) to go down to Guatemala because the issues (inaudible). And I don't think over the years we've probably ever done enough to reach out to -- to our Latin American partners.

One of the things (inaudible) a pretty good relationship and places that get most of the attention around the world are the trouble spots.

So, the good news here is that we -- we -- we've had pretty good relationship with them and we'll continue to have (inaudible). So, focus on the relationship.

And -- and next week -- the region itself has (inaudible) relationship. In particular, this trilateral relationship - you know, this is the second of (inaudible) a regional initiative bringing together every other year and meeting of the ministers like (inaudible).

I think it's important we keep that going. And if we -- if we kind of think of the (inaudible), when we strengthen that little substance with -- muscle and sinew and (inaudible) thing we can do right now.

I'll be adjusting a -- a couple of things that need (inaudible).

I think the other thing that is important here is (inaudible) the continuation of what we're doing around the world through capacity building -- helping our neighbors, our friends, our partners build their own capabilities and build capacity.

You know, we've got an exercise for Guatemala and we've been doing (inaudible) important things to carry through (inaudible). Unfortunately, I think that (inaudible) down there (inaudible).

So, there's nothing like actually coming out and spending some time in these countries -- they can see that we're committed to carrying through with these programs.

Now, but I -- but I -- but I do feel strongly that you all know -- we've talked about it; (inaudible) our partners. And it's really critically important to our future and I think (inaudible).

Those three areas are, I think, the primary areas of focus. Then we'll fill in all the other gaps and initial (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) capacity building in Guatemala?

SEC. HAGEL: Yeah, we're doing more and more capacity building there, too. I mean, you know (inaudible) -- Black Hawk (inaudible) power line…

I think we've got many things we're looking at. We'll be looking at (inaudible), reviewing different ways where we can cooperate -- we can do more, should do more.

It's clearly an (inaudible). We'll talk about that more.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) doing a joint exercise? Because I don't (inaudible) there's ever been any (inaudible).

SEC. HAGEL: Well, no -- I think this is -- I'm not aware of any joint exercises (inaudible) in the recent past.

So, this is an area that I think we ought to look at for sure - (inaudible) -- there's a lot of opportunity for that.

You know, it looks good on the Pacific; there's a lot of areas right there where we could be doing more together.

So, I -- I think again, these forums, as brief as they are, they allow you to really get into the depth of the exploration of "why don't we try this" or "what about this" or "let's look at this."

And then you (inaudible) out all those pieces. You know, we don't have to wait forever -- another year to do that, easily.

(Inaudible) a commitment to go forward and maybe check something (inaudible). (inaudible).

That's why these things are valuable -- because we can sit down together and kick around why it would end normal (inaudible).

Some of them will be (inaudible) by all these things. But it'll be (inaudible).

And you only have - (inaudible).

So, there are only four of us (inaudible).

QUESTION: There's a lot of U.S. (inaudible) active in the (inaudible) lately -- China has been more active over the last few years; Russia's been more active; (inaudible) in Latin America (inaudible).

Does that sort of put pressure on the (inaudible) down here (inaudible)?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you know, Mexico -- the relationship with the U.S. and Mexico has always been (inaudible).

There's - (inaudible), that's part of the history.

But for the last (inaudible) years, certainly, the relationship has gone downhill.

And other nations who are interested, whether it's China or Iran or other nations (inaudible) Western Hemisphere, I don't think that's surprising.

Mexico is a large country -- resources (inaudible); energy resources to add to their strength and potential.

And so, I think the world that we live in -- we do it; other nations do it. We're all totally focused (inaudible) the world. So, I don't think we should be surprised by that.

Our trying to step up the relationships in these areas are not the result of trying to keep anybody out or push anybody away. So, we're a country who -- who -- who leads markets (inaudible).

And we can't lead markets and trade without stability and security. So, what we're doing -- it is not in any way related to try to push anybody out or -- or intimidate any countries not to trade with another country or things like that.

So, we couldn't do that anyway, (inaudible). We'd have to be shortsighted and self-defeating.

But (inaudible) to bring our relationships together. (Inaudible) more together; it shouldn't be (inaudible).

We have common interests, common challenges, common threats. We share 2,000 miles of waterway with them. And (inaudible) an issue -- but it's more than that.

QUESTION: Okay, one of the areas...

STAFF: Last one.

QUESTION: Okay, one of the areas that I know that you'll talk about is humanitarian assistance and (inaudible) response.

What will -- some of the other areas that both countries have problems (inaudible) crime and drugs. So, will we be helping build capacity for those areas, do you think? Or more military?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we already talked about capacity, humanitarian -- like I did (inaudible) -- I might be (inaudible).

Because the reality is, as Michael said in a way, natural disasters know no boundaries; crime has no real boundaries now, and (inaudible) no boundaries.

So, these are all common interests that we have -- and the militaries can, because of their relationship, not only ask that (inaudible) control and (inaudible) relationship, but provide -- and it does provide, essentially, the first kind of relationship with the ability to look at anything.

So, there -- there are ways we can all be cooperating military to military (inaudible) military.

We can be doing more, (inaudible) and -- and sharing more and connecting more. And -- and so, we're going to -- we're going to explore that.

So, that could be an area -- that could be a very tangible focus because it's not easy when you (inaudible).

And, you know, (inaudible) little disagreement on you help your people, you help each other -- what's going on with this Malaysia Airline (inaudible).

There are certain things where -- where we can cooperate and move forward. And that leads to other things, too.

You know, somebody said once that when you trade with each other, especially with military to military relationships or when you're buying assets from different countries, you don't need a brilliant blueprint necessarily into their strategic thinking because there's an obvious strategic dynamic that kind of (inaudible) together when you're cooperating on different things.

Now, each country doesn't have to give away their secret, of course. And there are only (inaudible) -- that's okay.

But in the world that we live in today and (inaudible) into, we're going to have to pick the pace up on all of this (inaudible) before we have these common interests (inaudible).

STAFF: Thank you - good?

HAGEL: Thank you. Okay, we'll -- we'll see you (inaudible).

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