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Updated: 14 Jan 2003

Background Briefing

Tuesday, November 9, 1999 - 2:45 p.m.
Subject: Subject: SecDef's Trip to South America
Presenter: Attributable to a Senior Defense Department Official

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY: Okay. We have a background briefing for you with a senior Defense official, to kind of give you the outline of the secretary's trip to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and London. So here is your senior Defense official.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I should say, with regard to the London portion, I'm not actually prepared to talk about that. Perhaps I could take the question and get back to you.

I'm going to start my presentation today by talking about the countries that the secretary will visit on the South American leg of his trip. I'll walk through the schedule, take stock of the secretary's visit to the region last time, recently, and then discuss the importance of the trip, move on to what we hope to accomplish on this visit, and then take your questions.

Okay. As you may know, the secretary plans to visit Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, in that order. We will depart on the 11th of this month. That's Thursday.

The first day of meetings will be on the 12th, that Friday. He'll be in Brazil. He will meet with President Cardoso, Minister of Defense Alvares, and Foreign Minister Lampreia.

The weekend will be spent in Argentina. Most of that time will be down time. And Monday we'll pick up with the official visit,where the secretary will meet with President Menem, Minister Dominguez, and President-elect de la Rua.

Then Tuesday, the 16th, the secretary will be in Chile, where he will meet with President Frei and Minister of Defense Yoma, Perez Yoma.

I can briefly kind of go through the secretary's earlier visit, and I thought that that would provide some good background for you. The secretary visited Argentina and Brazil and Chile in May of 1998. That trip emphasized the improved bilateral and sub-regional relationships, and underscored that democracy has taken root in the region.

The trip also focused on the preservation of democracy as the basis for ensuring mutual security and the critical role played by the military and security forces in supporting and defending democratic institutions in those sovereign states.

The secretary and his counterparts agreed on the need of continuity of the DMA, which is the Defense Ministerial of the Americas. The trip was followed by official counterpart visits to the U.S. by the Chilean and Argentine ministers of defense.

Following that visit, Secretary Cohen, along with his counterparts from the Western Hemisphere, attended the third DMA in Cartagena, Colombia. The DMA continues to advance regional cooperation across the entire political spectrum as a direct result of this positive interaction among hemispheric leaders.

As you may know, the fourth DMA is planned to be held in Brasilia in October of 2000.

The importance of this trip: as I said before, the secretary is visiting three very important countries. And as a reminder, in 1983, Argentina transferred to democracy. Brazil transferred to democracy in 1985, and Chile in 1990. So these are freshly minted democracies. And it's something that the secretary and his party traveling with him think is very important to undergird democracy in that location -- in that part of the world.

With regard to what we hope to accomplish on the trip, the secretary hopes to establish a relationship with the new minister of defense in Brazil. That's Minister of Defense Alvares. And it's also, I might add -- the Ministry of Defense itself was just recently established, and Minister Alvares just took over, I believe, in October. (To staff.) Is that correct?

STAFF: In June.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: In June. Okay. June of this year.

The secretary also plans to discuss the themes from the DMA, which will take place in October of 2000. And he's also hoping to take steps to advance our longer-term relationship with that very important country in that region.

Now, in Argentina, the secretary will concentrate on expressing his appreciation and the appreciation of the government of the United States for the relationship that's been developed between the Menem administration and this administration, and the advancement we've made in our mutual interests. It's also to meet with the new government, the de la Rua government. And a major purpose of this trip is continuity. As Argentina transitions to a new democratic administration, we want to make sure that the super relationship we've built with them remains and moves forward in the interests of both our democracies.

In Chile, the secretary will underscore the importance of the U.S.-Chilean relationship. And he will focus on undergirding the accomplishments that have occurred in the DCC, which is the U.S.-Chilean Defense Consultative Committee. It's a bilateral working group where we've had a lot of interesting things go on, and we're hoping to advance our relationship through that forum. And lastly, he will discuss ongoing efforts to institutionalize civilian control of the military in that important country.

That's basically the background that I plan to provide you. Do you have any questions?

QIs Chile on the edge of buying the F-16s now? Have you any signals from them? And do you look for any kind of agreement to be announced when you're down there?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think that the Chileans -- I think that the subject will come up, but with regard to where that conversation goes, it's unclear at this time. Basically I think that's the answer.

QHow much concern is there about de la Rua's remarks recently that he wants to downsize the peacekeeping -- (off mike)?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think the United States thinks that our relationship with Argentina is going to continue on a very positive trajectory. And I think that the meeting the secretary is going to have with the new president and, hopefully, he will also meet with some of the members in the Cabinet of the new administration, I think that we're looking very positively and we think it's going to go in a way that is in the mutual interests of both our countries. I don't think that we're particularly concerned about some of those reports.

QDo you think they're not accurate or do you --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No. To be frank, we were told that perhaps he had been misquoted.

QThen what about the issue of raising support for Columbia and Peru and those other countries that are under the narcotrafficking cloud?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, I think that the narcotrafficking will inevitably come up in the conversations we have with all the governments that we visit with, but it is not the purpose of this trip to focus on that particular issue, although it remains a concern of, I believe, our country and the three countries that we will visit. It's not a tenet of the agenda.

QBut certainly there will be a concern about the rebel activities in Colombia? That will be a matter of concern to all parties, I take it?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think that -- you know, I think I would be less than honest with you if I said I didn't think it would come up, which I think it will, but as I said before, it's not a major tenet of this trip to advance any issues with regard to that issue.

QDo you think there will be some discussions about arms sales in Argentina and Brazil?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I do not expect those issues to come to the fore, and certainly in Argentina; nothing that I know of. And perhaps on the periphery in the discussions with Brazil, if they bring it up, but it's not the intent of the secretary on this trip to do so. And we're prepared to answer any questions that might come up about such matters, but it's not a focus of the trip.

QFirst to ask about the question on Colombia that was asked during the briefing, particularly the assistance that is supposed to be pending. It seems that Congress is almost out and nothing is going to happen -- (inaudible) -- say that it's time to go beyond talk and to really pass something meaningful. I was wondering if you might have anything to say about this?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I am not the Colombia expert, and I could take the question if you wanted to stay here or I could probably get you an answer shortly, but I'm not really prepared to answer that question right now.

QCan you clarify the fighter sales just one more time?


QYou expect the subject to come up, but no announcements are being made?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: How can I explain this? I think that there's a significant possibility that we will not move beyond the point where we're at right now in discussions. I know that the Chileans are also thinking of all kinds of options and it's unclear to me how the process will evolve. I just don't know.

STAFF: Okay? Thank you.



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