United States Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes of Brazil met on Monday at the Itamaraty Palace in Brazil to reaffirm the long-standing bilateral relationship between their nations, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.
In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said the leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues, and the secretary thanked the minister for his country’s global leadership in peacekeeping missions around the world.
“They agreed their countries’ common values of Inter-American principles of human rights, the rule of law and peace are a solid foundation for a long-term strategic partnership,” White said.
Mad dog Mattis is in Brazil on the first stop of his first visit to South America since taking office. Officials said the trip – in which the secretary also will visit Argentina, Chile and Colombia -- underscores the department's strong defense ties that are critical to a collaborative, prosperous and secure Western Hemisphere.
Mathis told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. is looking to expand its partnerships with the nations of the region where it makes sense to do so.
The U.S. has good military-to-military partnerships in the region because of shared values, the secretary said, noting that while the United States does not have a large military footprint in Latin America, it does have strong partnerships.
“We are looking to expand partnerships where it's mutually beneficial,” Mattis said. “No hesitation at all. We see Latin America as our neighbor. Some people say we don't pay much attention to it. That is certainly not the case in the military. You don't see large military formations down there, because the nature of our relationship doesn't require that. And we work together across a wide number of issues, and military is simply one of many.”
In answer to a reporter’s question, the secretary discussed his reasoning on establishing the Space Force. He said that in his first month as defense secretary he discussed with President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence how to organize the military for space operations. The department understood the importance of the space domain, and was looking for the best solution to the challenge of space, Mattis said.
But setting up the Space Force last year was too soon, he added. “I was not going against setting up a Space Force; what I was against was rushing to do that before we define those problems,” he said.
The defense secretary said Congress must pass legislation to establish a sixth armed service. “We'll get this reorganization as far as we can take it, based on solving, developing and defining the problem, and then they'll go to the Congress,” he said. “We've got to work up what the actual organization looks like. … And we have the White House's support on this.”