Protecting and Preserving a Free and Open South China Sea

14 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United States and all law-abiding nations share a deep interest in the preservation of a free and open South China Sea.  All nations, regardless of military and economic power, should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed to them under international law, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, without fear of coercion.

Today, the United States is taking additional actions to defend these rights and freedoms.  Pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Department of State is imposing visa restrictions on People’s Republic of China (PRC) individuals, including executives of state-owned enterprises and officials of the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC’s use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources in the South China Sea.  Immediate family members may be subject to these visa restrictions as well.

In addition, the Department of Commerce has added China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Limited to the Entity List in light of its role in the PRC’s campaign of coercion against other claimants of an estimated $2.5 trillion in South China Sea oil and gas resources. The Chinese Communist Party has used CNOOC and other state enterprises as weapons to attempt to enforce Beijing’s unlawful “Nine Dashed Line.” CNOOC used its mammoth survey rig HD-981 off the Paracel islands in 2014 in an attempt to intimidate Vietnam. CNOOC’s then-chief executive touted that oil rig as “mobile national territory.”

Beijing continues to send fishing fleets and energy survey vessels, along with military escorts, to operate in waters claimed by Southeast Asian nations and to harass claimant state oil and gas development in areas where it has failed to put forth a coherent, lawful maritime claim.

In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law.  Last July, the United States aligned our position on the PRC’s maritime claims in the South China Sea with key aspects of the Tribunal’s decision and affirmed once again that we reject the PRC’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.  We welcome the unprecedented number of countries that have formally protested these claims at the United Nations.

The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law.  We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea.


10th Anniversary of the Revolution in Tunisia

14 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the Tunisian people on the 10th anniversary of Tunisia’s revolution. Our partnership is strong, dating back centuries to the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between our two countries. The United States views Tunisia as a partner of choice, our relationship grounded in our shared commitment to democratic values and the promotion of economic prosperity for our peoples.  We are proud to have stood by the Tunisian people in the last decade as they became an example of an inclusive democracy, one where the rights of women and minorities and freedom of speech and association are constitutionally respected. That Tunisia received the Nobel Peace Prize for dialogue and peace is a testimony to the true character of the Tunisian people.

Since the start of the revolution, U.S.-supported projects have created thousands of jobs, opened new markets to Tunisian goods, educated and registered voters, and invested in Tunisia’s people.  Together, we face global challenges and stand strong against the threat of terrorism.  Looking forward, we remain committed to standing by the Tunisian people to create jobs, engage the private sector, and strengthen democratic institutions and rule of law .  We look forward to preserving the gains made over the last ten years and to working together to foster economic prosperity across Tunisia.


The United States Targets Foundations Controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader

13 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on two organizations controlled by the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) and Astan Quds Razavi (AQR).  While masquerading as charitable organizations, EIKO and AQR control large portions of the Iranian economy, including assets seized from political dissidents and religious minorities, for the benefit of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his office, and senior Iranian government officials.

These entities are being designated pursuant to Executive Order 13876, which targets the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s Office (SLO), and their affiliates.  This action follows the Department of the Treasury’s November 2020 designation of the Bonyad Mostazafan, an immense conglomerate controlled by Khamenei with holdings in key sectors of Iran’s economy.  Alongside Bonyad Mostazafan and the previously designated IRGC-owned entity, Khatam al-Anbiya, AQR, and EIKO are estimated to control more than half of the Iranian economy.

These institutions enable Iran’s corrupt leaders to exploit a system of ownership over a wide range of sectors of Iran’s economy.  The United States will continue to target entities and individuals that enrich themselves while claiming to help the Iranian people.

For more information on today’s action, please see the Treasury press release .



Update on Department Transition Efforts and Travel

12 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The Department of State is well along in its transition efforts with President-elect Biden’s team.  We are fully committed to the completion of a smooth and orderly transition process to be finalized over the next 8 days.  Both the Department and the President-elect’s team have been fully engaged for several weeks toward this end, and we are pleased with the level of cooperation and professionalism that has been displayed.

We are expecting shortly a plan from the incoming administration identifying the career officials who will remain in positions of responsibility on an acting basis until the Senate confirmation process is complete for incoming officials.  As a result, we are cancelling all planned travel this week, including the Secretary’s trip to Europe.


United States Takes Action to Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida

12 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, I revealed new information about how the Islamic Republic of Iran has given a new operational headquarters to al-Qa’ida, the terrorist network with more American blood on its hands than any other.  For al-Qa’ida, Iran is the new home base.  Tehran gives sanctuary to the terror group’s senior leaders as they plan attacks against America and our allies.  Indeed, since 2015, Tehran has allowed al-Qa’ida figures in the country to freely communicate with other al-Qa’ida members and perform many functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan and Pakistan, including authorization for attacks, propaganda, and fundraising.

In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department identified and sanctioned three senior al-Qa’ida operatives residing in Iran and noted that Iran had knowingly permitted these al-Qa’ida members, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, to transit its territory on their way to Afghanistan for training and operational planning.

The Iran-al-Qa’ida axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and to the American homeland itself, and we are taking action.

Today, I announced the designations of Iran-based al-Qa’ida leaders Muhammad Abbatay (also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi), and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-‘Arif as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.  Under the same authority, I also announced the designations of Isma’il Fu’ad Rasul Ahmed, Fuad Ahmad Nuri Ali al-Shakhan, and Niamat Hama Rahim Hama Sharif as leaders of the al-Qa’ida Kurdish Battalions (AQKB), an al-Qa’ida-linked group that operates on the border between Iran and Iraq.  As a result of these designations, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with these individuals and their property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.  In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to al-Qa’ida.

The United States is also committed to seeing that al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership based in Iran faces justice.  The Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program is announcing a reward for up to $7 million for information leading to the location or identification of Abd-al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, an Iran-based key leader of the al-Qa’ida terrorist group.

The Department is also re-advertising previously announced reward offers on three additional senior al-Qa’ida leaders, including two operating in Iran: Sayf al-Adel and Yasin al-Suri.

Today, we are drawing attention to the nature of the Iran-al-Qa’ida relationship and are taking the actions necessary to crush al-Qa’ida and its links to Iran. We urge all nations to do the same – for the good of our nations, and of the free world.


Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Hugh Hewitt of The Hugh Hewitt Show

12 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Via Teleconference

QUESTION:  I am joined now by the United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.  Mr. Secretary, welcome back to The Hugh Hewitt Show.

QUESTION:  Hugh, it’s great to be with you this morning.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  The Chinese Communist Party has a mouthpiece, the Global Times, which has a lead editorial today: China to respond to U.S. provocations in next 10 days, which concluded, and I want to quote, Mr. Secretary, “We would rather face a Taiwan Straits crisis, even a storm, in the next 10 days if Pompeo and his likes become more aggressive and provocative before leaving office.  The crisis will teach Taiwan secessionists a lesson and nail Pompeo and his likes to the pillar of shame.  Even if this will cause a shock to China-U.S. relations during the period of power change in the U.S., it will bring more benefits to the normal development of bilateral relations in the long term,” end of quote.  Mr. Secretary, are we on the cusp of a crisis with China?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Hugh, this is the kind of language that the Chinese Communist Party has been using for an awfully long time now.  Everything that President Trump and our administration has done with respect to the Taiwan issue in particular is deeply consistent with a series of agreements over an awfully long time.  All we have asked is that the Chinese Communist Party continue to adhere to the “one China” policy and the Three Communiques as well.

We’re in conversations with the Chinese Communist Party about it, but all – they’re reacting to a decision about a series of events, which includes so much as just simply allowing the continuation of unofficial visits between Americans and Taiwanese with a set of rules that we apply to every other nation.  This has been President Trump’s policy with respect to China more broadly.  All we ask for is fairness, reciprocity, an even-handed way of dealing with each other.  It’s appropriate that the Trump administration continue to demand that.

QUESTION:  Have you discussed with President Trump how the U.S. will respond to any provocation by General Secretary Xi in next 10 days if one occurs?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I never disclose conversations with President Trump, but this has been a conversation that is now coming on four years, Hugh, about how the United States will respond to every action, right?  The President began by tackling the challenge of the economic in – disparity between the way the two nations interacted.  We then worked hard with respect to the Wuhan virus to demand transparency, fairness, reciprocity, the central tenets of relationship with the United States and China.  I don’t expect that will change.

QUESTION:  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft is going to arrive in Taiwan tomorrow.  What sort of provocation do you think General Secretary Xi is capable of ordering?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Oh, Hugh, I never speculate in that way.

QUESTION:  Okay, well, would anything that happens, in your view, happen as a result of a direct order from General Secretary Xi?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Hugh, nearly everything, certainly anything of significance that takes place, certainly in the sphere of security and military activity, certainly extends to the Military-Civil Fusion program as well.  Those actions are highly centralized, highly controlled, and emanate from the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Xi – General Secretary General Secretary Xi Jinping.

QUESTION:  So a very respected navalist who’s a friend of mine, Captain Jerry Hendrix, retired, has written that he expects a, quote, “shouldering” incident soon, where a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship shoulders a United States Navy ship.  Have you discussed with the President or the Vice President, Defense Secretary Miller, Ambassador O’Brien, or DNI Ratcliffe how we would respond to such an incident?  I know you don’t speculate, but —


QUESTION:  — has it been war-gamed?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Hugh, we’ve – military folks prepare for every potential challenge that they face.  They’ve had these kinds of events before with respect to Iran and others.  I am confident that the Department of Defense knows how to respond in the event that they are challenged.

QUESTION:  At a very important speech at the Nixon Library this summer, and that’s self-serving because I was sitting next to you, you stated that, quote, “We marginalized our friends in Taiwan, which later blossomed into a vigorous democracy,” close quote.  Ambassador Craft will be the third senior official of the team Trump to visit.  Should these visits continue in the Biden administration?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We should continue to have interactions with Taiwan in a way that is permitted under the “one China” policy.  One of the things I said over the weekend was what we’ve done before, is that the Chinese exercise a rhetorical flourish or they challenge us, and we walk away from the things that we promised that we would do.  Indeed, we have legislative requirements, statutory requirements, things that are in law that the United States simply hasn’t done on its own.  It’s bent its knee to China.  We ought not do that.

These actions aren’t provocative.  They aren’t intended in that way.  They are intended to fulfill the commitments that we have made to all the parties in the region, to the Chinese Communist Party in particular, part of the “one China” policy.  We will live up to our promises.  We will live up to our commitments.  We will do so in a way that is appropriate and we – all we ask is that the Chinese Communist Party fulfill the promises that it has made to not only the United States, but to the world for all these years.

QUESTION:  If you’re invited to Taiwan post-transition, will you accept?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Hugh – (laughter) – I’ve spent the last six months refusing to talk about what I’m going to do after I’m Secretary of State.

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  Fair enough.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t intend to change that this morning.

QUESTION:  Fair.  All right, let me ask you about President-elect Biden.  Do you expect him to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party or sit down?  Because after – he’s financed by Hollywood and big tech, and they are compromised by the Chinese Communist Party.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I think the world, and that includes the American people, will continue to demand that the United States secure freedoms for them, and that includes pushing back against the challenge of our time.  That is the challenge of the Chinese Communist Party and its capacity and intention to expand its influence and ultimately deliver a world that is very different, one not governed by the rule of law, by respect for sovereignty, all the things that the world has come to know in the post-World War II environment.  And the Chinese Communist Party wants to upend with a very different theory of international relations, one dominated by the East, one controlled in a way that won’t create more security, freedom, more prosperity.

I am confident the American people will demand that whoever is leading their country, President-elect Biden included, respond to that in a way that continues to make sure that America remains the country it has for the last 240-plus years, and that the world continue to operate under a set of rules that are based in human rights, based in the law, based in respect for sovereignty.  Those are core principles, the idea of reciprocity is important, and I think every American leader understands the necessity for that.

QUESTION:  Again, going back to your Nixon Library speech, you said, quote, “In Hollywood, not too far from here –” as we were in Yorba Linda, “the epicenter of American creative freedom, and self-appointed arbiters of social justice – self-censors even the most mildly unfavorable reference to China.”  I’d like to expand on that, Mr. Secretary, and I experienced it this weekend.  This era’s version of Oliver – Laurel – is a guy named Seth Rogen.  And after hitting me once he exploded in anger and vulgarity at me on Twitter when I invited him on this program to discuss the Chinese Communist Party.  He replied, quote, “My movies don’t come out in China,” sidestepping the issue of Hollywood kowtowing to Beijing, despite its repression of the Uyghurs, despite Hong Kong.  Is that changing?  Has Hollywood woken up even if celebrities who often disguise ignorance with invective – is it changing in Hollywood?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Hugh, I have not seen that yet.  The capacity of the Chinese Communist Party to influence not just Hollywood, but the – our media more broadly, whether that’s through investment interests, whether that’s through threats that they won’t have access to the markets in China, whether that is simply people hanging out at the same cocktail parties.  It is the case that we have permitted the Chinese Communist Party to get inside of our schools, our research institutions.  You spoke about our media and Hollywood.  Those are things that fundamentally present risk to the sovereignty of the United States of America.  For decades we turned the other cheek, we allowed this to go on.  I think, just as President Trump has said, we’ve had enough, that can’t continue to happen.  And the United States needs to do everything it can.  The government needs to do everything it can to prevent that from continuing to happen.

QUESTION:  The most recent example:  “Feeding the Dragon” is a book by a Hollywood executive, Chris Fenton.  And the most recent example of what he describes as kowtowing is Tom Cruise iconic bomber jacket in Top Gun 2 – removed the Taiwan flag from it.  Now, is that insidious?  Is that something we should ignore?  Is it just silly comedians like Seth Rogen or is that a real problem?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  A flag on a jacket, (inaudible) standing alone – right?  Okay, fine.  But what it is is it is a bellwether.  It’s an indicator.  It is a signal for the depth, capacity, breadth, scope, the levels to which the Chinese Communist Party will reach, and in fact has reached, to influence how Americans think about their own country.  These efforts, these influence operations are real, and the effort to undermine our institutions, our central, Western, democratic institutions, American republic, is real.  And we have to make sure that we do everything we can to call it out, identify it.  When the American people become aware of it, when they know, they’ll demand that not only government do the right thing, but they’ll remand that the – demand that the people who sell them products, the people who provide them services all behave in a way that is consistent with American national security.  We have seen that throughout history before, Hugh.  I’m confident we’ll see it again.

QUESTION:  Now I want to go – one more quote from the Nixon speech – Nixon Library speech.  You said, Mr. Secretary, “We have to keep in mind that the regime is a Marxist-Leninist regime. General Secretary Xi Jinping is a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology.”  And about Reagan’s old saw, “trust but verify,” you said, quote, “I say we must distrust and verify.”  Do you think the incoming administration embraces this attitude towards the Chinese Communist Party?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Only time will tell.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But the evidence – not rhetoric from any leader or any politician, the evidence – demands it.  Whether it’s the promises that were broken, broken to the people of Hong Kong; whether it was the promise not to militarize the South China Sea that was made in 2015 in the Rose Garden to President Obama.  The list goes on.  It is no longer the case that commitments that are made can be trusted, and so we must validate distrust, verify that the Chinese Communist Party does what it committed to do.  When they do, we can engage.  When they don’t, we must demand that they change in nature of the behavior that they’re engaged in, as it impacts the United States of America.

QUESTION:  Now, Mr. Secretary, this very much looks like a third Obama term with people like Tony Blinken; very nice guy, I met him at Aspen.  Wendy Sherman, very nice person, but, I mean, she negotiated the 1994 Korean “deal.”  She negotiated the JCPOA with John Kerry, who’s back.  Secretary Kerry will be back.  I fear we’re going to end up waking up some morning and seeing a deal that recognizes the nine-dash line in exchange for promises of carbon reductions in 2080.

Are you worried about an Obama third term and the return of appeasement politics?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, I don’t want to comment on the people, but the policy matters an awful lot.  You’ve seen President Trump and our administration lay out a robust response to the great power competition that the Chinese Communist Party presents to the United States.  We believe we have the right end of the stick on this.  We think this is the right direction of travel.  We think the American people demand it.

And we have seen too, Hugh – we have seen the world respond to this in positive ways.  We’ve seen the Australians do remarkable work in pushing back.  We’ve seen the Japanese, the South Koreans.  We’ve developed the Quad now with the Indians that is very powerful in simply saying no, we’re not trying to punish, we are not trying to contain China.  We are simply demanding that they engage in the world in a way that big nations with large economies, powerful militaries – we haven’t even talked about their missile program and their nuclear program – with countries that have real capacity to destabilize and make the world insecure – there is a requirement, there is responsibility that comes with it.  And the United States ought to lead – whoever is president of the United States ought to lead – the path forward in responding to the Chinese Communist Party in this way.

QUESTION:  Now, Mr. Secretary, I personally distrust everything the Chinese Communist Party says and does about the COVID virus that, as you noted, originated in Wuhan.  A sidebar first:  Do you personally believe it began in a lab there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Still don’t know the answer.  Chinese Communist Party has now for over a year refused to allow anybody to get access to the information they need to figure that out.  It sounds like yesterday or the day before they may finally have let the World Health Organization enter.  I hope, but I’m not optimistic, that they will actually let them do the work that needs to be done: see records, see the lab, see the original work that was done, see – talk to, interview all of the people, not with minders around, but in a situation where those people would be free to speak their mind.  I hope that investigation can be thorough.

But I will add it is – I remember initially when I began to talk about the fact that this might well have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory, it was ruled as impossible.  It is not impossible that that is what happened, and the world must continue to demand that we understand what took place here for a host of reasons, not the least of which, Hugh, is to make sure that something like this never happens again.

QUESTION:  Many of our companies have allowed a Chinese information war to be carried on their platforms, attempting to shift the responsibility for the virus.  Do you accept any other alternative explanation or are you certain it began in Wuhan?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The Chinese Communist Party has offered not one, not two, but at least three alternative theories for where this began.  They continue to attempt to obfuscate.  Everything that we have seen indicates that this began not only inside of China, but at Hubei province, Wuhan.

QUESTION:  Does China owe the world reparations?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The reality is that the world has seen what authoritarian regimes do.  They’ve seen the enormous death.  They’ve seen the massive destruction of wealth.  There will be hundreds and hundreds of thousands more people continue to live in poverty as a direct result of the economic challenges that the Wuhan virus has foisted upon the world.  I think the world will respond to this in a way that recognizes what the Chinese Communist Party did by delaying their activation of the promises that they had made to the World Health Organization, and there will be costs that are attached to that as a direct result of the things that the Chinese Communist Party did.

QUESTION:  And now switching to two other subjects, Mr. Secretary.  Four years ago, President Obama declined to send a formal delegation to Cuba to attend the funeral of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, but instead dispatched his top White House aide Benjamin Rhodes, who was the deputy national security advisor, now better known as the Metternich of MSNBC.  Rhodes seems to be the only Obama-era staffer not coming back.  Maybe not; maybe Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau, the privileged pod boys.

But will appeasement chorus return on Cuba?  Do you worry that the Obama-era policies about Cuba are coming back with the band getting back together?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The Cuban people don’t want that.  The Cuban people want freedom.  They want the absence of oppression.  When America appeases, the Communist Party in Cuba becomes more powerful, more authoritarian, reduces the capacity of them – the Cuban people – to live the lives the way they want.  I don’t know what the next administration will do, but the approach that the Trump administration has taken to challenge the leadership inside of Cuba and support the Cuban people is the right one.  I hope it will continue.

QUESTION:  My last subject is Iran, Mr. Secretary.  In Yemen, the Houthis remain cruel servants of the Iranian regime and the theocracy there has used them for cruel purposes.  America is about to designate them – indeed, it may have happened yesterday – as a terrorist regime.  Do you expect team Biden to undercut this clarion call for truth in the Middle East?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  More broadly in the Middle East, certainly Yemen, is part of this storyline.  The Trump administration simply recognized reality.  The Houthi forces are terrorists, underwritten by the theocracy, the kleptocracy that runs the Islamic Republic of Iran.  That regime is funding a missile program, funding capabilities inside of Yemen that put Europe at risk, put the Middle East at risk.  We simply are saying this is the truth.  They’re terrorists, so designate them.  We’ve done the same thing.

And you’ve seen the good things that have happened in the Middle East, whether it’s the reduction in the capacity of the regime to fund Lebanese Hizballah – Iranian regime to fund Lebanese Hizballah, or the Abraham Accords, or the things we’ve done to recognize that Israel belongs in the Middle East and is an important partner to those Gulf state countries, whether that’s through the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people, the Jewish homeland in Israel, or whether it was the recognition that the Golan Heights belongs to Israel, or the fact that not every settlement has to be illegal.  Those are central truths.  Those are realistic.  Those are the right policies for security, freedom, prosperity throughout the Middle East.

I think the people of the Middle East know that.  You’ve seen it.  These were sovereign decisions to join the Abraham Accords.  I am very confident that the foundation that has been laid during this time of the Trump administration will continue to help the people of the Middle East flourish.

QUESTION:  Now, our strongest allies in the region are Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and they led the way on the Abraham Accords.  Others have quickly followed and that’s great, but there’s an almost religious attachment to the JCPOA.  They’ve been holding a wake that’s now in its fourth year for it.  Will the attempt to resurrect that failed agreement in any way compromise the progress that’s been made in the Middle East?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s always a mistake to demonstrate weakness to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  They will use it for malfeasance.  They will use it to present risk.  I think the countries that are most impacted by it ought to have the loudest voice with respect to how that proceeds.

And I hope the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis, the Kuwaitis, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians – all the people who are impacted by what Iran could potentially do if we turn the spigots back on and send tens and tens of billions of dollars back into this regime – I hope that they will prevail and I hope that what we’ll get is a strong response to the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East today – that is, the regime in Iran – and that we will continue down this path of creating enhanced security relationships amongst the Gulf states, amongst all of those partners, all of those nations that want to participate in that.

QUESTION:  Now, Mr. Secretary, I know you don’t do politics.  Secretaries of states don’t.  President Trump’s term is ending in controversy and a disastrous day last week.  But the four years he’s been in office – and you’ve been there every day, either at the CIA or at Foggy Bottom – saw the Abraham Accords, Warp Speed, the federal judiciary made, the China reset.  Does the horrific event of last week in any way detract from those achievements, and ought the American public to discern the differences between those and that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, what happened that day was terrible, and I have said repeatedly that those folks who engaged in this activity need to be identified, prosecuted, and they are criminals and ought to be treated as such.  But history will reflect on the good work that this President and our administration has done.  Those books will be written about the changes that we have made in the world, the recognition that we have taken about reality, sovereignty, respect for basic dignity and human rights, a return to the founding principles in a way that previous administrations had not done.  I’ll let others write it, but I think that those actions – the actual things that happened – will be reflected in a way that shows there was good work done on behalf of the American people.

QUESTION:  My very last question, Mr. Secretary, and you’ve been generous with your time:  You have been an advocate of religious liberty around the world, about the natural rights approach to human rights.  Will that endure?  And why did you make that a priority?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s very difficult to conduct foreign policy around the world if you don’t understand the founding of your own nation, your own nation’s deep traditions.  That’s certainly true in the space of human rights as well, religious freedom being foremost among them, along with the capacity to exercise your religious rights and rights to speak.  You have to get that right.  I wanted to make sure that my team at the State Department, my diplomats understood that founding, understood and appreciated how important and how noble the American tradition was.

And while we are an imperfect nation, we are constantly headed towards respecting and increasing the rights for every American.  If we get that right, if we do it well, then we can be a force for good in the world.  And if we don’t, it becomes more difficult.  I wanted to make sure that my team understood that, and it was a moment to reflect on these central truths about American exceptionalism.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you for your many interviews as Secretary of State.  I continue to look forward to talking to you after you have left, and congratulations on a successful tenure at State and at the agency.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, Hugh.  Bless you.  So long.

QUESTION:  Bye-bye.


Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Hoover Institution’s Pacific Century Podcast With Co-Hosts Michael Auslin and John Yoo

12 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Via Teleconference

MR AUSLIN:  Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us on the Pacific Century.  We’d like to talk primarily about China today with you, and we know this has, of course, been a great focus of yours.  A while ago you said it was the first thing you think about in the morning when you get up and the last thing you think about in the evening.  You’ve had an extraordinarily productive set of policies related to China, but one of the responses that has come out in the China-watching community, the Asia community has been the charge that if you treat China as an enemy, you make China an enemy.  And I’m wondering if you could respond to that to give your view of how China has acted regardless of what the United States has done and in ways that, whether you feel the policy that you implemented has been successful, this policy of reciprocity.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So the idea somehow that American actions are driving General Secretary Xi Jinping’s model of behavior is simply ludicrous.  If anything, what drove it was the appeasement that had taken place for, frankly, decades before, where no matter what action the Chinese Communist Party took, no matter how much it impacted adversely the security and prosperity of the American people, our response was we can go sell more stuff there, don’t upset the applecart, and we bent a knee.  I think that may well have fueled the Chinese Communist Party’s vision that says we no longer need to hide our time and bide our strength.

And so they haven’t.  They have begun to break promises all across the world and to threaten the capacity for the West, this idea of the rule of law and the idea of sovereignty, these central understandings we have about human rights, to be violated in ways we’ve not seen in many, many decades in the world.

So President Trump came in and we flipped the script.  We began to take seriously this challenge, and we both took action ourselves and built out coalitions throughout the world to assist us in preserving the ideas of democracy and human rights and the rule of law and sovereignty.

It is the case that there is still more work to do, but whether it was the idea that said we’re going to have reciprocal and fair trade arrangements between our two countries, whether it was the idea that simply said we’re not going to permit your companies to invest here in America on terms American companies can’t invest in China, you can’t steal intellectual property without us imposing cost, you can’t create dens of spies in Houston, Texas and let it go unaccounted for.

And so there are many things that we have done.  We can talk about them more.  But the central theory is is that preservation of the ideas that we value so much and the security and prosperity of the American people depend on a robust response to the challenges that General Secretary Xi Jinping presents to the United States, and we’ve done our best to counter them.

MR YOO:  Mr. Secretary, this is John Yoo here.  Thanks for joining us and it’s great to hear you.  Let me follow up, Misha, from the other side of things, which probably reflects more my bent on things, as did we do enough?  Were you able to slow China down?  Were we able to stop their growth, their drive to domination?  What else would you have liked to have done if you had more time in office?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  John, look, these are long processes.  Reversing decades of American policy and convincing another 100-plus nations that they need to be alongside of us in standing up for democracy and freedom isn’t going to happen in just four years.  And so there remains an awful lot of work to do.

The places to begin are certainly within the commercial space.  It’s still the case that America is exposed to tremendous risk from important items in the supply chain that Americans depend upon coming out of China.  We need to take actions that preserves the capacity for us to function even if China should threaten.  Our military needs to continue to expand its capabilities.  There are many, many more missile tests being conducted in China each year than the rest of the world combined.  We need to make sure that we don’t surrender on issues that matter an awful lot.

The Paris climate treaty is a perfect example.  Rejoining that treaty would give China an enormous windfall because they have no intention of destroying their economy in pursuit of the objectives of the Paris climate treaty.  The list of work that remains is significant, and there are a whole handful of things that we have in process that we’ve begun to work on.  But make no mistake, General Secretary Xi Jinping still believes that he has an opportunity to achieve the end state goals that he has laid out.

MR AUSLIN:  Mr. Secretary, it’s Misha Auslin again.  So after four years of the policies that you pursued, and as you’ve said flipped the script, have we had our NSC 68 moment, do you think – meaning going forward now with a different team, are we all on the same page?  Are you confident, do you – or do you feel comfortable that everyone understands the scale of the threat, understands the scope, and sees in the approach that you began – much like the containment approach back in the 1940s and carried on under different administrations – that reciprocity is the way forward and that there cannot be backsliding in all of the different areas that you’ve identified?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I pray that that’s so.  It’s important for the American people that it is so.  The next administration will have to make their own choices.  Two things I think worth commenting on there.  First, there is a consensus.  We had support from Democrats on the actions that we took to impose costs on the horrific actions that are taking place in Western China, some of the worst human rights violations.  I’ve called it the stain of the century.  It is every bit that.  We’ve had consensus built around the failed promises from the Chinese Communist Party on Hong Kong, and there is consensus around how the United States needs to push back against the Chinese Communist Party’s penchant for retrenching with respect to Taiwan.  So there are places.

But my second point there would be there are costs when one does that.  There are risks when one does that. The Chinese Communist Party will respond to the actions that we take; that is, they will employ countermeasures to try and deter us from taking those actions, and we need steadfast leaders who are prepared to accept those costs and acknowledge that the long-term sustainable freedom and democracy project that has been the United States of America for now more than two centuries depends upon our commitment to preserving our freedom from the challenges that the CCP presents.

MR YOO:  Mr. Secretary, I know you don’t have a lot of time, but I can’t let you get away without asking what’s next for Mike Pompeo.  And as a lawyer I have one piece of advice:  Don’t go to Shanghai Disneyland anytime soon.  But what is – what’s next for you?  How are you going to – I guess in a bigger way, what can all of us who are not in the government anymore – you’re a private citizen again.  How do you keep this all moving forward now that (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I will heed your recommendation with respect to tourist attractions in Shanghai.  Beyond that, I do hope that I can continue to think about and work on the important projects that we have begun here, certainly with respect to the challenges presented to the United States.

Look, one way we can do it is just to speak the truth to it.  I haven’t really spent any time in this session, but the challenges here inside the United States on our campuses, in our research institutions, even in our high schools, in commercial space – the Chinese Communist Party, as I have said, is inside the gates here, and there is a responsibility of every American citizen to be mindful of that, to be aware of it.  When you see something that looks like it might well be an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to engage in behavior that’s antagonistic to American interests, you ought to check it out.  I wish Congressman Swalwell had done that.

There are still many ways that every American citizen can do this.  I have close friends.  We all know the Chinese American community is noble, great.  I mean, it’s, in fact, those very people that our obligation to push back against the Chinese Communist Party must continue to support.  So I don’t know from what perch I’ll be doing that, John, but I do hope to continue to find a place because this matters an awful lot to my kids and your kids and all of our grandchildren.

MR AUSLIN:  So, Mr. Secretary, before we let you go, you’ve mentioned the children, you’ve mentioned the next generation, and just now you were also talking about what’s going on on the campuses.  Clearly this is a generational long challenge and competition.

What would be your thoughts or your hopes or advice to the next generation – those in college, those in high school – in terms of understanding the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, in terms of understanding the nature of China itself and the Chinese people, of understanding the Communist Party and quite honestly what a communist party is?

You’ve talked about it.  You’ve dealt with the Confucius Institutes.  You’ve thought a lot about this.  What is it that you would like to see them do or understand or even ask, so that they’re prepared for this generational challenge?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, I think every individual has a responsibility, especially those of us who have had the opportunity to lead.  And I don’t just mean in government.  I mean company CEOs, heads of school boards, those running pension funds in California and around the country.  We all have to be eyes wide open.

So that requires learning, taking on board information, seeing these things for what they are, not shying away from it either because it’s hard to push back against – which it is, right; I’ve seen this time and time again – or because it’s particularly lucrative not to push back.

And I’m convinced this next generation will get it.  I began my service in the United States military during the Cold War.  I served from 1986 to 1989 as an armor officer on the then East German border.  I had an appreciation for what tyranny and authoritarianism do to the individual spirit and the flourishing of human life.  I am confident the next generation will come to understand that as well.  They will come to see that it is today’s Chinese Communist Party that really presents the greatest threat to those freedoms that each and every one of them gets to benefit from because they have the good fortune to be American.

MR AUSLIN:  Mr. Secretary, thank you.  You mentioned calling it as it is, seeing things for what they are.  In Chinese, there’s a longstanding philosophical tradition called rectification of names, which essentially means call things as they really are, don’t self-delude.  And I think that’s probably the best piece of advice we can take from you after 40 years of a different approach and the four years that you strove to rectify names and, quite frankly, put us on a new path.

So we thank you for your service, we thank you for what you did during this period, and we thank you for joining us today on the Pacific Century.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Misha, John, it was great to be with you all.  Good luck.  So long.

MR YOO:  Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

MR AUSLIN:  Thank you.


U.S. Announces Designation of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

11 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The State Department has designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.

The Trump Administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of U.S. justice.

For decades, the Cuban government has fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bombmakers, and hijackers, while many Cubans go hungry, homeless, and without basic medicine.  Members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, traveled to Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government in 2017.  Citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba has refused Colombia’s requests to extradite ten ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.

Cuba also harbors several U.S. fugitives from justice wanted on or convicted of charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades.  For example, the Cuban regime has refused to return Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List for executing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973; Ishmael LaBeet, convicted of killing eight people in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1972; Charles Lee Hill, charged with killing New Mexico state policeman Robert Rosenbloom in 1971; and others.

Cuba returns to the SST list following its broken commitment to stop supporting terrorism as a condition of its removal by the previous administration in 2015.  On May 13, 2020, the State Department notified Congress that it had certified Cuba under Section 40A(a) of the Arms Export Control Act as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in 2019.

In addition to the support for international terrorism that is the basis for today’s action, the Cuban regime engages in a range of malign behavior across the region.  The Cuban intelligence and security apparatus has infiltrated Venezuela’s security and military forces, assisting Nicholas Maduro to maintain his stranglehold over his people while allowing terrorist organizations to operate.  The Cuban government’s support for FARC dissidents and the ELN continues beyond Cuba’s borders as well, and the regime’s support of Maduro has created a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and thrive within Venezuela.

Today’s designation subjects Cuba to sanctions that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba, restricts U.S. foreign assistance, bans defense exports and sales, and imposes certain controls on exports of dual use items.

The United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression, and association.  Until these rights and freedoms are respected, we will continue to hold the regime accountable.


Sanctioning Russia-linked Disinformation Network for its Involvement in Attempts to Influence U.S. Election

11 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on seven individuals and four entities that are part of a Russia-linked foreign influence network associated with Andrii Derkach, who was designated on September 10, 2020, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13848 for his attempt to influence the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.  Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, has been an active Russian agent for more than a decade, maintaining close connections with Russian intelligence services.

Former Ukraine Government officials Konstantin Kulyk, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, Andriy Telizhenko, and current member of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksandr Dubinsky, have publicly appeared with or affiliated themselves with Derkach through the coordinated dissemination and promotion of fraudulent or unsubstantiated allegations involving a U.S. political candidate.  They have made repeated public statements advancing malicious narratives that U.S. Government officials have engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine.  These efforts and narratives are consistent with or in support of Derkach’s objectives to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.  As such, these individuals have been designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign influence in an attempt to undermine the 2020 U.S. elections.

NabuLeaks, Era-Media, Only News, and Skeptik TOV are media front companies in Ukraine that disseminate false narratives at the behest of Derkach’s and his associates.  They are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for being owned or controlled by Derkach or his media team.  Today’s action also includes the designation of Petro Zhuravel, Dmytro Kovalchuk, and Anton Simonenko for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Derkach.

For more information about today’s actions, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release .


Iran Threatening to Expel UN Investigators

10 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

In December Iran’s parliament passed a law requiring expulsion of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear inspectors unless all sanctions are lifted. Today a member of the parliamentary leadership repeated that threat: all IAEA watchdog inspectors will be ejected unless sanctions are lifted. Once again the Iranian regime is using its nuclear program to extort the international community and threaten regional security.

Iran’s threat goes much further than violating the JCPOA. Iran has a legal treaty obligation to allow IAEA inspector access pursuant to Iran’s NPT-required safeguards agreement.  Violating those obligations would thus go beyond Iran’s past actions inconsistent with its JCPOA nuclear commitments.

Every nation, not only the United States, will attach great importance to Iran’s compliance with these obligations.  Nuclear brinksmanship will not strengthen Iran’s position, but instead lead to further isolation and pressure.

This threat follows on the heels of the Iranian regime announcing it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at Fordow, the fortified, underground facility Iran originally constructed in secret, further breaching its nuclear pact. The world’s top sponsor of terrorism should not be allowed to enrich uranium at any level.

The United States fully supports the IAEA’s continued professional and independent verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s expulsion of international inspectors must be met by universal condemnation.