BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The U.S. and Argentinian militaries will pursue closer cooperation on numerous fronts, including military education and training, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday after meeting with his counterpart during the first visit to Argentina by an American defense chief in 13 years.

"We focused on what we can do working together as they go through very difficult economic times," Mattis told reporters as he was departing Buenos Aires for a flight to Santiago, Chile. "Both sides are very open to a stronger military-to-military relationship in complete transparency, so there cannot be any doubt about what's going on."

Before they met, Mattis and Argentinian Defense Minister Oscar Aguad publicly expressed their hope for better ties. Mattis alluded to the help the U.S. Navy provided Argentina last November when one of its submarines went missing with 44 sailors aboard.

The last U.S. secretary of defense to visit Argentina was Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2005.

Mattis and Aguad announced no specific agreements, but both said they hope for better relations between their two countries.

Aguad alluded to the chilly relations of recent years, which he said were now changing for the better. He told Mattis, "We have come back to the road we should never have left."

Aguad also thanked Mattis for the help provided when the Argentine sub, ARA San Juan, disappeared in the South Atlantic last year. The U.S. Navy helped search for signs of the vessel, which remains missing.

"We thank you once more for a gesture that will never be forgotten," Aguad said.

Mattis also is visiting Chile and Colombia this week.

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