Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will attend the 11th Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas during a six-day, three-country trip to South America that begins tomorrow.
Hagel’s first stop will be Colombia where he will reinforce U.S.-Colombian defense ties in meetings with leaders there.
“Colombia continues to expand its role as a security exporter across the region,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters, “and Secretary Hagel will underscore the United States’ continued support for these efforts, as well as Colombia’s internal counterinsurgency operations as the government pursues a peace process.”
Kirby said Hagel will also seek new avenues for future security cooperation and visit a Colombian military base to observe training for Colombian special forces and aviators.
Next stop, Chile
Following Colombia, Hagel will travel to Chile, a country Kirby described as a longstanding defense partner of the U.S. and a regional leader in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-keeping.
“Secretary Hagel will explore ways that the United States can expand our partnership with Chile in these areas and seek to identify new areas for cooperation in the broader Asia-Pacific region,” Kirby said.
On to Peru
Hagel’s final stop will be in Peru to attend the 11th Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas -- the Western Hemisphere’s “premiere venue” for senior leaders to discuss regional defense issues.
Hagel will stress the U.S. commitment to partnerships strengthening national defense institutions and confront hemispheric security challenges including ungoverned spaces, organized crime and narcotics trafficking.
The major theme of this year’s conference, Kirby said, is environmental security.
“He will describe DoD’s efforts to assess and respond to the risks that climate change poses to our military’s installations, operations and training,” the admiral said.
“And he will propose cooperation with partner nations to address these risks.”
Hagel will also have the opportunity for bilateral meetings with leaders from Peru and other regional partners, highlighting U.S. appreciation for the diverse contributions of partners who share a common vision for regional stability, Kirby said.