WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will start on Friday a week-long trip to Peru, Uruguay and Brussels, where he will attend the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas and a NATO meeting, the Pentagon announced here on Thursday.
This trip will "reaffirm the department's commitment to strengthening defense partnerships around the world, particularly in Latin America and Europe," Pentagon spokesman George Little told a regular news briefing.
In Peru, Panetta will meet with President Ollanta Humala and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Cateriano, to "convey our interest in further deepening the U.S.-Peru bilateral defense relationship in the areas of counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and humanitarian operations," Little said.
"Peru is one of the United States' strongest democratic partners in South America and it is a country of growing regional importance," he noted. "The United States cooperates with the Peruvian military on a range of activities, exercises, and training."
In Uruguay, Panetta will participate in the 10th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, and hold bilateral meetings with defense leaders from seven Latin American nations.
"The emphasis of those discussions will be on strengthening partnerships and working with other nations to build their capacity to contribute to regional and international security efforts," the Pentagon spokesman said.
On the last leg of his trip, Panetta will travel to the NATO headquarters in Brussels for meetings with defense ministers of European allies on how to continue the progress made at the May NATO summit in Chicago regarding the alliance's plan to draw down troops from Afghanistan.