U.S. Department of State
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
MAY 31, 2020
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining me this morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Maria. Thanks for having me on.
QUESTION: What can the administration do to create calm, to calm things down this morning?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me begin, first of all, by expressing my personal condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family and all the people, too, who have been impacted by this rioting and the violence. It’s not good. It’s a tragedy. The police officers’ actions there were abhorrent.
And what the administration has done so far is to move very quickly. You’ve seen statements by President Trump. You saw the attorney general talking about what the Justice Department is doing and how rapidly it’s responding to proceed with its investigations of what took place there, the police incident that took place.
And then you’ve seen the President talk to the fact that this violence, this looting, this rioting, is unacceptable. And he’s offered to provide whatever federal assistance might be appropriate, including Secretary Esper’s conversation with governors, to offer that assistance if that’s necessary to protect peaceful protestors and people all across these communities that have been impacted by these Antifa-like violent protestors.
QUESTION: Yeah, the President did tweet out that this was largely Antifa. Secretary, do you think maybe this started off with peaceful protests, and then Antifa came in, joined these protestors, and flared things up with weaponry like those Molotov cocktails?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I think it still remains to be seen exactly how what began as peaceful protests by people who were clearly saddened and frustrated by the police action against George Floyd. I don’t know precisely how it proceeded to get this way, but we’ve seen this pattern before where outsiders come in. We’ve seen some of the mayors talk about the fact that they have had people travel from outside of the communities to really do destruction – destroying small businesses, the life savings of owners of those small businesses. It’s truly a tragedy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, let me switch gears and ask you about China. And here I want to take you back and really reiterate your background. You come from the world of intelligence. You, of course, are a West Point graduate, the finest military academy in the world. You were the head of the CIA. You were on the House Intel Committee when you were in Congress. You have been investigating China and zeroing in on behavior of China for 10 years. Can you assess the situation today? What is China’s motives, the Communist Party motives?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s a different Chinese Communist Party today than it was 10 years ago, and I think the remarks that President Trump gave on Friday of this past week reflect that. This is a Chinese Communist Party that has come to view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values. It puts Americans at risk.
The list is long, whether it’s stealing American intellectual property, destroying hundreds and millions of jobs here in the United States, or their efforts to put at risk sea lanes in the South China Sea, denying commercial traffic the opportunity to move through, armed encampments in places that China has no right to be. The list of actions from the Chinese Communist Party is long, and for the first time – for the first time – we have a President of the United States who is prepared to push back against that and protect the American people.
QUESTION: It was back in 2015 when you were talking about China’s IP theft, back in 2012 when you were talking about China’s malign cyber activity. Did something change during this administration, though, that you learned something about Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party tracking Americans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Chinese Communist Party has become much more aggressive. You’re right; this issue has been out there for a long time, as far back as 2012 for sure. But they’ve become more aggressive. They’ve become more aggressive in their efforts to do disinformation campaigns like we saw when the coronavirus was moving around the world, when they closed down their own province but allowed travel around the world, infecting hundreds of thousands of people. We saw the disinformation of that campaign trying to deflect attention.
We’ve seen their increased cyber activity as well, their efforts to be in a position to do true destructive harm in different places all across the world. This is a Chinese Communist Party that is very aggressive. And President Trump on Friday announced a series of responses to not only what happened in Hong Kong – the destruction of this great free place, this great place of enormous commerce over these last decades – but not only with respect to Hong Kong, but with respect to the Chinese companies’ ability to be listed on American stock exchanges under a different set of rules.
You’ve seen the President take action on trade to try and get reciprocity back into the system so American businesses and American workers are treated fairly. These are the kinds of actions of a president who understands the risk that the Chinese Communist Party presents and is prepared to take action to respond to it.
QUESTION: The President on Friday went through those actions, in particular saying that we would be treating Hong Kong differently. Listen to the President. I want to get your take on exactly what this means in a practical sense. Watch the President Friday:
“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China. The United States will also take necessary steps to sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy, and just if you take a look, smothering – absolutely smothering Hong Kong’s freedom. Our actions will be strong. Our actions will be meaningful.”
Secretary, what does this mean on a practical basis in terms of treating Hong Kong differently? How will things change?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the background, of course, is that the Chinese Communist Party had entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom that they would allow Hong Kong to have autonomy for 50 years. Halfway through it or so, they have now broken those commitments, those promises that they made to the world.
The United States had a series of preferences. We treated Hong Kong more favorably than we did China for all of those years because of that treaty. The Chinese Communist Party has now broken its promise, and the United States will respond.
As a practical matter, the President laid out a couple of things that we’ll do. He has asked us to review every preferential treatment that Hong Kong had and work to eliminate it. It no longer makes sense. If the Chinese are going to treat Hong Kong the same way that they treat mainland China, there is no basis for the United States to treat it differently as well.
Second, the President made clear that we’re going to look at a number of things, and we’re going to look at Chinese students who are studying here who have connections to the military-civil fusion projects inside of China, and we’re simply not going to let them come study here if they’re threatening to take American technology and transfer it into Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
And then, too, he made very clear we’re going to take a look at whether we ought to go and sanction individuals who destroyed this freedom inside of Hong Kong.
QUESTION: Are you expecting the CCP to use this opportunity, whether it’s the chaos going on in America or the COVID situation that is dominating the world right now, are they using that as an opportunity to gain more territory? We see troops on the border right now with India. We see the militarizing of the South China Sea. And now, of course, we know that Taiwan is also looking and watching what will happen next. Are you expecting the CCP to invade Taiwan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, the Chinese Communist Party has been on this effort, on this march, for an awfully long time. They’ll certainly use a tactical situation on the ground to their advantage. But each of the problems that you identified there are threats that they have been making for an awfully long time. For the first time, we have an administration that’s prepared to actually respond to say this is unacceptable and to take responses that are measured, appropriate, but reflect the seriousness with which we take the obligation to protect the American people from these Chinese Communist Party efforts.
You talk about using what’s going on on the ground today. They are – they’re out using disinformation about what’s taking place in American cities and trying to equate that somehow to what’s happening in Hong Kong. These are completely different. We have the rule of law. We have decent Americans all across this country who are troubled by what happened, and they have the opportunity to speak freely about that. None of that exists inside of China. The Chinese Communist Party prevents that kind of freedom of expression. And the results – the risk to America as a result of that – are real, and we’re going to respond to them.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. back Taiwan should China go into Taiwan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, there is a long history there. You know the story. Each time I speak with my Chinese counterparts, we make clear the commitments that we’ve made to them that have been made as far back at the Reagan administration and that we stand by those commitments. The good news is the Chinese Communist Party has told me directly they will as well. We have every expectation they will live up to those commitments.
I work nearly every day with partners around the world who understand the risk that is presented from the Chinese Communist Party, whether it’s my Australian counterparts or my partners in Europe. They have all come to see the risk to their countries – to freedom, to democracy, to the rule of law – that is presented by the Chinese Communist Party. And we’re going to lay out a detailed plan to make sure that we protect the American people. President Trump has been serious about this and has taken important measures to protect the American people.
QUESTION: You mentioned the rest of the world. I want to take a short break. Secretary, when we come back, I want to ask you about our allies around the world. Are they with us in trying to stop this behavior by the Chinese Communist Party? More on that when we come right back on Sunday Morning Futures. Stay with us.
QUESTION: Welcome back. We are back with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And Mr. Secretary, I see that there is a joint statement with regard to China’s behavior in Hong Kong, and that joint statement is from Canada, the UK, Australia. I want to ask you about our allies throughout Europe – Germany, France, Italy. Are they beginning to get it? Are they going to back away from using Huawei and get with the United States when it comes to the Chinese Communist Party and its behavior?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, I’m counting on it. It’s the right thing to do for their people. No German citizen should have their private information transition across a piece of Chinese hardware which will clearly be owned and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. In Europe they care deeply about privacy of their citizens. Allowing that information to go across Chinese-controlled networks is the antithesis of providing that very privacy.
And so we’ve seen real progress. We’ve been out talking about this. We’ve been sharing these risks with the Europeans for many, many months now, and we’ve started to see them recognize the risk. They saw too – they all saw their nations suffer – whether it was the people of Italy or the people of Belgium or the people of Spain, where they had tens of thousands of lives lost because of actions the Chinese Communist Party took. I think the populations in those countries are now seeing most clearly the risk that the Chinese Communist Party presents. This is what authoritarian regimes do: They steal information, they deny freedom of expression, they oppress their peoples, and they present risk to people all across the world. Democracies behave completely differently, and I think the people of Europe will come to see that along with the United States we can work together to build our economies, to protect our people, and to keep the entire world in a place where the Chinese Communist Party does not dominate the next century.
QUESTION: And they do want to dominate the next century. Jack Keane has told me that it is the fastest-growing military in the world. I want to show pictures to our audience of last year’s big military parade where Xi Jinping showed off some weaponry, one of which was able to hit as far as the United States. What was this military parade telling the world? And I mean, you mentioned European nations getting it, but they’re still using Huawei telecom infrastructure, correct?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, too many of them are. They need to change that. They need to get it out of their system. They need to use Western technologies, whether that’s Ericsson or Nokia or someone else. They need to use technologies that they know the information would be protected and kept private.
With respect to the Chinese Communist Party’s military advances, they are real. General Secretary Xi is intent on building out his military capabilities. Our Department of Defense is doing everything it can to make sure it understands this threat. And I am confident that under President Trump our Department of Defense, our military, our national security establishment will keep us in a position where we can protect the American people, and indeed we can be good partners with our allies from India, from Australia, from South Korea, from Japan, from Brazil, from Europe, all around the world. We can be good partners alongside them and ensure that the next century remains a Western one modeled on the freedoms that we have here in the United States.
QUESTION: There are more than 60 bills in Congress right now holding China accountable, everything from sanctions on individuals, to moving the supply chains from China to America and elsewhere, to also what they’re doing in terms of stealing intellectual property with students. What do you believe will be signed into law? I mean, do you think that we are going to be limiting the visas for Chinese students who want to study things like AI, quantum computing, and military?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, I don’t know which of those 60 will make it to the President’s desk. I’m counting on the people of Congress. Your point about 60 is important. Many of these are bipartisan bills. This is something that I think people all across the political spectrum understand is a real risk. I don’t know which of those will make it to the President’s desk. Last week there was one that had to do with the Uighurs in China. I would encourage the members of Congress to continue to study this issue, to work to help this administration do the things it needs to do to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from its advances and to keep the American people safe. I know that they will. It’s bipartisan. I am heartened by that.
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, it’s incredible. But for a decade the Chinese Communist Party has been moving military bases across the world and putting them near ports or by U.S. military bases. Do you think things changed considerably when Xi Jinping became dictator for life, Secretary? Because we spoke with Jimmy Lai, who’s been on the front lines of the Hong Kong protesting, and he said that everything changed when Xi Jinping got in there.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I had the chance to meet with Jimmy a few months back – a remarkable, freedom-loving patriot. I do think things changed significantly when the Chinese Communist Party changed its rules to allow General Secretary Xi to remain in charge for a long time. But I also believe this is deeply embedded in an ideology; this is bigger than any one person. The threat from the Chinese Communist Party emanates from the nature —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — of Chinese Communist Party doctrine and ideology. I think that’s the basis for it. And so I think this is something that America is going to have to do along with its Western democratic – democracy-loving partners all across the world. We’re going to have to be at this for a while.
QUESTION: Secretary, before you go, I want to ask – I’m sorry. Secretary, before you go, I want to ask you about these tensions that are escalating between yourself and congressional Democrats over the firing of your IG, separate letters. The lawmakers are asking you to respond by Monday for a request of a closed-door questioning on the firing of Inspector General Steve Linick.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is just part and parcel of the attacks on President Trump and now on myself related to us trying to make sure that this government was functioning in a way that was designed to assist the American people. These attacks have become very personal to me, to now come after my wife. All we’ve done is simply make sure that in respect to the inspector general that we had an inspector general that was working towards the mission of the United States Department of State and the foreign policy of Donald Trump. I’ve seen some of the stories. The stories are based on nothing. They’re rumors. They’re gossip. They have attacked me for my faith. They have attacked my wife for trying to help the State Department and the CIA be better. This is all just silly.
QUESTION: All right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So your viewers should know we’re going to continue to do the things that President Trump was elected to do here in the United States of America. And this carping, these personal attacks on me and on the President aren’t going to slow us down.
QUESTION: Secretary, thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, Maria.
QUESTION: We will be watching. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us this morning.