A Mexican naval official confirmed Friday that two Soviet warships will visit Mexico next month, adding that the visit will be just a courtesy call. A U.S. Embassy official expressed “great concern” about the visit.
Earlier Friday, U.S. intelligence sources in Washington reported that a Soviet guided missile destroyer and a frigate were headed to the Gulf of Mexico port of Veracruz, 210 miles east of Mexico City, for a five-day visit.
Asked about the Washington report, Navy Ministry spokesman Hector Aguilar Chagoya said, “Yes, they are going to arrive on Oct. 4, but I don’t know how long they will stay in Veracruz.
“This is not the first time we have had foreign boats come on courtesy visits. We have also had ships from France and the United States visit us,” he said. “I don’t see anything out of place.”
However, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said, “We have no word that the Soviets are planning such a visit.”
“Were such a visit to occur, in Mexico or anywhere in Latin America, we would see that with great concern,” another U.S. diplomat said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said, “The Mexican government and other governments in the region are aware of our concerns about Soviet naval visits to the area.”
However, Kalb said, “Mexico is a sovereign nation and the Mexican government can make its own decisions about such matters. And may I add to that, the Soviet Union has a longstanding practice of trying to increase the projection of its naval presence worldwide.”
Although Soviet warships have previously conducted military maneuvers with Cuban vessels in the Caribbean, the visit to Mexico will be a first for Soviet warships, the intelligence sources in Washington said.