US secretary of defence visits key Latin America allies to boost defence relations

US secretary of defence visits key Latin America allies to boost defence relations

Today, Secretary of Defence James Mattis will embark on a trip throughout South America, stopping in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and

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Photo: Reuters

Today, Secretary of Defence James Mattis will embark on a trip throughout South America, stopping in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

With the White House having declared 2018 the “Year of the Americas,” the tour is meant to highlight the Department of Defence’s strong security ties with the four countries.

Since former President Obama’s pivot to East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America has been of little interest to Washington. Beijing has sought to fill the vacuum of US influence in South America by pledging to invest $250 billion directly into the region and generate $500 billion in trade between 2015 and 2019; it has since surpassed the US as the largest trading partner of Brazil, Peru and Chile.

Regardless, the US remains the primary external source of military cooperation in South America, something Mattis’ tour seeks to affirm. Beijing’s economic influence in the region will continue to undermine Washington’s as long as the latter remains ambivalent about investing, which it likely will. Nevertheless, for the foreseeable future, China will likely shy away from overt military investment and cooperation in Latin America to avoid evoking a strong response from the US.

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