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Remarks by Secretary Carter in a Media Availability in Trinidad and Tobago

Media Availability with Secretary Carter and Adm. Tidd in Trinidad and Tobago

 

      PETER COOK: Hi, everyone.

 

      I'm Peter Cook.  I'm the secretary’s press secretary. I'm going to try to answer as many questions as we can, but we've got another plane to catch, so please understand our timing.  The secretary has got a few remarks.

 

      We're going to be joined by Admiral Tidd, as well, commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

 

      SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Hi, everyone.

 

      Thanks for being here.

 

      This is Admiral Kurt Tidd, who is the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, which is one of two commands that work in this hemisphere, the other one being the northern command.  And so I'm pleased that he can be here.

 

      I want to commend him, especially because he's been very involved in the last few days on hurricane relief, especially in Haiti, which is a very important matter.  And obviously, our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, trying to deal with this situation.

 

      Of course, they're not the only country, including parts of my own, that were affected by it.

 

      This meeting is a very, very important one for our hemisphere and our world.  And I have had, as it turns out, just speaking personally, the privilege of observing, for the last quarter century as it has grown with the region and the region's own development in the security field, all of us together, and even the export from this region by various countries to other parts of the world of security.

 

      And that's very heartening because our world is very much in need of security.

 

      But it was at the -- 24 years ago, I guess, and I was working in the Department of Defense at that time.  This wasn't my responsibility, but I remember the great aspiration of the moment and it's -- so it's very heartening to me to see it these years later.

 

      We talked about a -- a number of subjects today, me and my colleagues from around the hemisphere today.

 

      There were two in particular I'll just mention to you, of all the things that were discussed that I mentioned in my own comments today, but a number of others did, as well.

 

      The first is the hemisphere-wide cooperation in the field of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  This is an area of, obviously, great important to -- importance to our populations.  It's a place where our military capabilities can make a big difference to helping our people when there is a disaster.

 

      And it's a place where countries working together is the only way to deal with disasters which, of course, are not national phenomena, they are international phenomena -- phenomenon, and they -- they know no borders, as was said by many today, including the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago in his opening statement today.

 

      Another thing I -- I mentioned today and that happy to say more about is the defense indus -- sorry, institutional reform.  This also is very important.  All of our defense ministries are constantly trying to change themselves, improve themselves, connect with our populations, make sure we're serving our populations, make sure we're living in accordance with the principles for which we were established and are given authority by our governments and our people.

 

      And so we're all constantly in that process and we can learn from one another.  So I expect to learn from my colleagues around the hemisphere and I think they may be able to learn from some of the experiences we've had.

 

      But that's an area, again, where all of us have made great effort, but also great progress in the last 24 years.

 

      I had some -- also, some very productive bilateral meetings, separate meetings, and I'll just mention a few of them today.

 

      Of course, first and foremost is our host, Trinidad and Tobago.  I'm very pleased the prime minister was able to take a few minutes to be with me and we discussed a number of very important issues and I gave -- was able to give him the opportunity to thank him for hosting this and also recalled President Obama's visit here in 2009, which began a whole new era in our relations here.

 

      But Trinidad and Tobago has done an absolutely superb job of hosting this and I'm very grateful.  I think everybody in the entire hemisphere is grateful for -- to them for the -- the big effort that it takes to do something like this.

 

      But it's truly an act of statesmanship by a country in the region.

 

      I -- I also had the opportunity -- and this is -- it's worth noting -- to speak yesterday by telephone to the defense minister of Colombia, who could not be here today because he's working very hard to find a path to a just and lasting peace in that country, something, you know, we all support.

 

      But I did have a chance to talk to him today.  And I talked to his vice mini -- I mean by phone yesterday to meet in person with his vice minister today.  And in addition to that issue, we really discussed the whole wide range of security contributions that Colombia makes, not just to security within its own borders, but in the region and, indeed, the entire world. 

 

      And it's one of the most-well regarded and effective militaries, I think, that's widely viewed that way.  Certainly we in the United States view it that way and they're a very good partner for us.

 

      I could say the same also of my colleagues from Brazil and Mexico and Chile, whom I also had separate meetings with today.  I'm grateful to them.  And we discussed a great number of issues, but in each case, you have very capable institutions with which we partner and are grateful for that partnership.

 

      I'll just mention one specific thing we did sign with Chile a bilateral agreement, an important agreement covering research, development, test and evaluation, cooperation between Chile and the United States.  That's historic and allows us to do even more in a field that we're doing much already.

 

      So this is an important meeting.  I'm grateful to have been a part of it.  I guess the last -- the only thing I can say in closing is CDMA is here to stay.

 

      (LAUGHTER)

 

      SEC. CARTER:  I think I learned that here.

 

      (LAUGHTER)

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

 

      And once again, we're pleased to answer your questions and where Admiral Tidd can answer it, also, I'll turn to him.

 

      Please go ahead.

 

      Peter, you're the...

 

      (CROSSTALK)

 

      Q:  -- in July you mentioned that there was concern that radicalism was possibly spreading to (inaudible) South America (inaudible)?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Sure.

 

      Q:  (inaudible) as a ISIS-ISIL (inaudible) to be in Iraq and Syria (inaudible) winter to (inaudible) parts of the world, what steps can be taken to ensure that (inaudible)?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Well, I'll say something about that and then ask Admiral Tidd to -- to chime in.

 

      It was discussed today.  It's an issue that all of our countries are aware of and I'll say in a moment what we can do to cooperate against it.

 

      But just to speak to the issue of ISIL in particular, ISIL will be defeated and it -- that will occur in Iraq and Syria and that will mean that this evil movement cannot claim to have a physical home in Iraq and Syria.

 

      There are some cells of it around the world -- Libya, Afghanistan and so forth.  And we work with partners, also, to stamp it out there.

 

      Countries in this region, which include the United States, obviously are going to be on the watch for anybody who tries to come back who may have been radicalized.  And, of course -- but of course, you don't have to have physically gone and come back any more to be radicalized.  In today's world, you can be radicalized on the internet.

 

      So I -- I think -- I understand your question was about foreign fighters.  But I think also lone wolves or self-inspired people are a concern for all of our countries.

 

      And so all of us play a role in that, along with our colleagues from other agencies and our -- in our governments.

 

      And you say what can we do together?

 

      I think the principle thing we can do together is share information and I think certainly the United States is committed to doing that.  We did discuss that among the -- the -- the ministers so that each of us has all the awareness we can possibly have of anyone who might try to return to any of our countries who's associated with this group.

 

      And with that, let me see if Kurt wants to add anything to that.

 

      Kurt?

 

      ADMIRAL KURT TIDD:  Just to -- to chime in with what the secretary said, all of the security chiefs from throughout the region recognize that this phenomenon of self-radicalization is something that literally can strike in any country.

 

      So none of us is immune from it and it can happen rapidly and as has been pointed out, the -- the -- the solution, the most effective solution, is effective information sharing between the -- the countries as -- as deeply and as -- as rapidly as we possibly can.

 

      MR. COOK:  (inaudible)?

 

      Q:  Secretary, Captain Davis today, at the Pentagon, hinted that U.S. is potentially considering retaliatory strikes against whoever fired those missiles at the U.S. fleet, including (inaudible) is the Department going to (Inaudible) the actor of (inaudible) partners (inaudible)?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  We're -- we're -- we're first and foremost, trying to determine who did this and what the intent was behind it.

 

      But he's absolutely right that not only do U.S. forces everywhere in the world have the right and tremendous capability to defend themselves -- and no one ought to underestimate that -- we also have the capability to take action against anybody who has taken mil -- action or aggressive action against our forces.

 

      And anybody who contemplates such action ought to understand that that is a capability that the United States has.

 

      That's all I'm going to say for now.  We are in the process of -- of investigating that incident.  When we understand it, then we'll take the appropriate steps.

 

      MR. COOK:  (inaudible) question?

 

      Q: (inaudible)...

 

      Q:  Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) just following up on my colleagues question about ISIS.  (inaudible) we have people in ISIS who (inaudible) one of the suggestions is to essentially make them stateless, which would (inaudible) and essentially (inaudible) denied entry because we have (inaudible) monitoring system unless (inaudible) track them should they be (inaudible).

 

      Is that a suggestion you think is practical for smaller countries to adopt and deal with that problem?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  I -- that was not something that was discussed today.  I think we all have legal systems and criminal justice systems in our countries to mete out justice to anybody who harms or attempts to harm people in our populations.

 

      If they're on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, as I said, they're subject to the ongoing campaign that the international coalition is -- is -- is waging there.

 

      MR. COOK:   A question about (inaudible)...

 

      SEC. CARTER:  But if -- if they're citizens of a state, they're citizens of a state and it's that state, that -- it has the ultimate disposition of them as a law enforcement matter (inaudible).

 

      MR. COOK:  CTV?

 

      Q:  This morning Prime Minister (inaudible) expressed his concern -- his disappointment of Cuba not being part of this conference (inaudible)?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Well, I -- I agree.  I regret it.  I think they made a mistake.

 

      We obviously were in favor of including Cuba.  I think that's important.  The United States strongly suggested that idea and Cuba missed an opportunity by not being here today.

 

      So I second what my hosts had to say.

 

      MR. COOK:  I'm sure we gotta catch a plane.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you all so much for being here.

 

      Just once again, to thank the government of Trinidad and Tobago for -- for -- for doing this.  It's a huge commitment that we all make to security in our hemisphere and our world.

 

      This is a place where we all get together, people of goodwill, and try to think about how we can make a better world for our children and you are the very gracious and wonderful hosts.

 

      And so to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the government, thank you.

 

      MR. COOK:  Thanks, everybody.

 

      Appreciate it.

 

--END--