US, Mexican security officials meet despite diplomatic rift

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies to the House Committee on Border Security on Capitol Hill on Feb 7, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies to the House Committee on Border Security on Capitol Hill on Feb 7, 2017, in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) - Senior Mexican and American military and interior officials spoke on Tuesday (Feb 7), Mexico's government said, in a sign that communication remains open between the two countries, despite deep tension over President Donald Trump's proposals.

In a telephone call, Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong and US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly discussed security issues and an upcoming meeting in Mexico City, according to a statement that gave few details.

A separate Mexican government communique showed Secretary of Defence Salvador Cienfuegos and his US counterpart James Mattis spoke about an April meeting of security officials that will include Canada.

Mexico's Navy Secretary Vidal Soberon was also on the call.

The Pentagon confirmed the call, noting the two countries' "commitment to strengthen our close bilateral defence relationship."

It added that "Mattis lauded Mexico's growing leadership in the region and commended Mexico's willingness to host the Central American Security Conference in July."

The discussions come despite a deep political crisis between Mexico and the United States.

Mr Trump has threatened to build a wall on the US southern border, slap a hefty tax on Mexican-made goods entering the country and pull out of a trade deal with Mexico if he cannot renegotiate it to benefit the United States.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled a planned January summit of the two leaders after Mr Trump said his counterpart should not attend if he was unwilling to pay for the wall.

In a radio interview following Tuesday's calls, Mr Osorio Chong said arms were also mentioned in his chat with Mr Kelly, but gave no details.

Illegal arms trafficking from the United States into Mexico has been key to the success of the country's notorious drug cartels and a constant worry for its government.