BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said April 16 he is concerned that drug trafficking will migrate to the Caribbean, as Mexico or Central America step up their own counternarcotics efforts.

Gates was meeting with leaders from seven Caribbean islands in a bid to re-energize U.S. partnerships in the region.  The U.S. is spending $45 million this year and has budgeted another $70 million in 2011 to help Caribbean nations improve security and establish social programs aimed at discouraging the drug trade.
St. Kitts and St. Vincent are seen as particularly vulnerable, in part because of problems with government corruption.

“Narcotrafficking is a problem for the hemisphere as a whole,” Gates told reporters. “And wherever you put pressure, the traffickers will go where there is less resistance and where there is less capability.''

Gates was part of a senior U.S. delegation that traveled last month to Mexico to pledge long-term support in the nation’s fight against the world’s most powerful drug cartels.

The U.S. also has pledged to spend some $1.4 billion toward the Merida Initiative with Mexico and Central America to fight the drug war.

Gates said the U.S. wants to do more in the Caribbean, to ensure that the region doesn't become an easy target for the drug trade.

“The U.S. is re-engaging with this region,” he said, “and we will work with these countries to address these problems.”