Lifting Self-Imposed Restrictions on the U.S.-Taiwan Relationship

9 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and reliable partner of the United States, and yet for several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts. The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more.

Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions.  Executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be null and void.

Additionally, any and all sections of the Foreign Affairs Manual or Foreign Affairs Handbook that convey authorities or otherwise purport to regulate executive branch engagement with Taiwan via any entity other than the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) are also hereby voided. The executive branch‘s relations with Taiwan are to be handled by the non-profit AIT, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.

The United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception. Our two democracies share common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today’s statement recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.

 

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Remembering the Victims of PS752

9 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The American people honor the memory of the passengers and crew of Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, whose lives were abruptly and senselessly taken one year ago by an unjustified Iranian shootdown.  The United States joins the Governments of Ukraine, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Afghanistan in paying tribute to, and calling for justice for, the victims of this atrocious tragedy.

Iran’s own investigation revealed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the plane with two surface-to-air missiles.  Yet, a year later, members of the IRGC have yet to be held accountable for taking the lives of 176 innocent civilian passengers and crew onboard. Instead, throughout this prolonged investigation, the regime has continued to protect those in the IRGC who were responsible. We look forward to the day the Iranian authorities values the lives of the Iranian people with the same zeal with which they now cover for their officials’ misdeeds.

We extend our wish for peace and strength to the families and loved ones of the victims, as we express our condolences again to those who continue to grieve their loss.

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Designation of Iraqi Militia Leader in Connection with Serious Human Rights Abuse

8 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the United States is designating Falih al-Fayyadh, Chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Commission (PMC) and former National Security Advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, for his role in violence against Iraqi protesters in 2019. Al-Fayyadh is being designated pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

During protests beginning in October 2019, Iran-aligned PMC forces attacked Iraqi civilians protesting against corruption, unemployment, economic stagnation, poor public services, and Iranian interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs.

Al-Fayyadh was the head of the PMC when its forces fired live ammunition at protesters resulting in the deaths of Iraqi civilians. Al-Fayyadh was also a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force Qods Force (IRGC-QF) supported crisis cell that included previously sanctioned militia leaders Qais al-Khazali and Hussein Falah al-Lami, as well as the now-deceased IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani and PMC deputy leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iran-aligned PMC forces continue to wage a murderous campaign against political activists in Iraq who are calling for free and fair elections, respect for human rights, and transparent and accountable governance. Many of these elements have established fictitious organizational cover names to hide their culpability for ongoing attacks against the Iraqi state. Today’s action is a clear message that the United States stands with the Iraqi people in their pursuit of freedom, justice, and democracy.

 

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The United States Welcomes the Breakthrough to Restore Gulf and Arab Unity

5 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

We are encouraged by the breakthrough made with the Al-Ula Declaration today at the GCC summit, which marks a positive step toward restoring Gulf and Arab unity. We have long stressed that a truly united Gulf will bring added prosperity through the free flow of goods and services and more security to its people. We welcome the pledge today to restore cooperation in military, economic, health, counter-corruption, and cultural initiatives.

We hope the Gulf countries will continue to reconcile their differences. Restoring full diplomatic relations is imperative for all parties in the region to unite against common threats. We are stronger when we stand together.

The United States thanks Kuwait for its mediation efforts and support in resolving the Gulf dispute.

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The United States Continues to Recognize Interim President Guaidó and the Last Democratically Elected National Assembly in Venezuela

5 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

On December 6, 2020, the illegitimate Maduro regime staged fraudulent legislative elections in Venezuela. Sixty countries around the world either came together to issue joint statements, including those released by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, and the International Contact Group, or issued their own statement, rejecting the sham elections. This fraudulently elected body has now occupied the Federal Legislative Palace in Caracas. We consider this group to be illegitimate and will not recognize it nor its pronouncements.

The United States recognizes Interim President Juan Guaidó as the legitimate President of Venezuela. President Guaidó and the legitimate National Assembly were elected freely in 2015 by the people of Venezuela. On December 26, 2020 the National Assembly voted to reform its Transition Statute which, along with the Venezuelan constitution, provides an explicit legal basis for it to continue its constitutional role. The legitimate National Assembly also voted to establish a subsidiary Delegated Commission, under Articles 195 and 196 of the Venezuelan constitution. President Guaidó and the National Assembly are the only democratic representatives of the Venezuelan people as recognized by the international community, and they should be freed from Maduro’s harassment, threats, persecution, and other abuses.

We know that millions of Venezuelans seek a peaceful resolution to their country’s calamitous situation. We therefore call upon Venezuelan political parties and civil society, including students, religious organizations, Chavistas, military families, workers, and employers, to rally around the cause of a peaceful democratic transition through free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. Interim President Guaidó, the National Assembly, and all democratic actors working towards democratic transition represent the aspirations of millions of Venezuelans for a brighter future.

 

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Sanctioning Companies Supporting Iran’s Metal Industry

5 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on 17 companies and one individual in connection with Iran’s metals industry. The Iranian regime uses revenue from its metals sector to fund the regime’s destabilizing activities around the world.

The Department of State is designating China-based Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology Co., LTD (KFCC) and Iran-based Hafez Darya Arya Shipping Company (HDASCO), a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), pursuant to Section 1245(a)(1)(C)(i)(II) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA). Both companies knowingly sold, supplied, or transferred, directly or indirectly, graphite to or from Iran and such graphite was sold, supplied, or transferred to or from an Iranian person (South Kaveh Steel Company and Arfa Iron and Steel Company) included on the Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List. The State Department is also imposing sanctions on Majid Sajdeh, who is a principal executive officer of HDASCO.

The Department of the Treasury further designated 16 companies that are active in Iran’s metal industry, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13871. Iran-based Pasargad Steel Complex, and Vian Steel Complex, Gilan Steel Complex Company, Khazar Steel Co., South Rouhina Steel Complex, Yazd Industrial Constructional Steel Rolling Mill, West Alborz Steel Complex, Esfarayen Industrial Complex, Bonab Steel Industry Complex, Sirjan Iranian Steel, Zarand Iranian Steel Company, and Middle East Mines and Mineral Industries Development Holding Company were designated pursuant to Section 1(a)(i) of E.O. 13871 for operating in the steel sector of Iran, or for owning or controlling companies that operate in the steel sector of Iran.

Additionally, Germany-based GMI Projects Hamburg GmbH, UK-based GMI Projects Ltd., and China-based World Mining Industry Co., Ltd. were designated pursuant to Section 1(a)(v) of E.O. 13871 for being owned or controlled by Middle East Mines and Mineral Industries Development Holding Company. Treasury is also concurrently designating KFCC pursuant to Section 1(a)(iv) of E.O. 13871 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, Pasargad Steel Complex, a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13871.

The United States will continue to aggressively implement sanctions with respect to the Iranian regime, those who evade sanctions, and others who enable the regime to fund and carry out its malign agenda of repression and terror.

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With David Rubenstein of Bloomberg News

5 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, D.C.

QUESTION:  Hello.  We’re here today with Mike Pompeo, the 70th Secretary of State.  And we’re beginning the new year with a conversation with him.  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for giving us time today.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, it’s great to be with you.  Happy New Year to you.

QUESTION:  So did you get any time off for the holidays, or you had to work straight through?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I did.  I had a chance to get back home to Kansas for the first time in quite a while and have a couple days.  It was really nice to be back on the farm in Winfield.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So unlike many people who went, let’s say, where warmer weather was, that wasn’t your interest?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It was not warm there.  The weather wasn’t so great.  But I was with family, making it just perfect.

QUESTION:  Now Jim Baker, former secretary of state, somebody I’ve gotten to know over the years – he was in my firm – he used to say the best job in the United States, and the best job in Washington, is secretary of state.  But it’s a difficult job.  Would you say it’s the best job in Washington, the best job you’ve ever had?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Oh, undoubtedly.  It’s the privilege of a lifetime, David.  It is a challenging job, but one that if you got a great team here at the State Department like I do, you can do wonderful things to protect America, to keep our nation safe, to keep our boys and girls who are in the armed forces out of harm’s way, and to do a good turn for the world as well and be a force for good every place America is present.

QUESTION:  So as you’ve now served about two and a half, a little more than two and a half years as Secretary of State, and you look back on what you’ve achieved, what would you say you’re most proud of having achieved as Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Internally here I think we’ve made some real progress at the State Department.  We created an ethos for our team.  We made sure we had the right people in the right places.  We built out a planning system here that I think will have real value as the years go on here at the State Department.  I don’t talk about those things enough, but the leadership challenge of being the Secretary of State and building out what is a big organization and handing that off to the next secretary of state is an important one.

Around the world, we’ve taken on what President Trump calls “America first.”  It’s based on restraint, and realism, and respect for other nations and their sovereignty.  We’ll talk about specific places and regions, but it’s a central understanding of American capacity to do good in the world, to do it without putting lots and lots of people in harm’s way, and to deliver on the things that matter.  We have an important economic component to what we do here at the State Department, too, that was neglected.  I think we’ve reinforced that in important ways that will create wealth and prosperity for our people here at home, which as you know, David, is always the basis for American security.

QUESTION:  So as you look back on your tenure as Secretary of State, what would you say has been the most frustrating thing for you?  Is there something you wish you had achieved and you hadn’t – haven’t yet achieved, or some other frustration you’d like to discuss?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, there’s certainly lots of unfinished business in lots of places in the world.  The work that we’ve done to change how America thinks about the Chinese Communist Party and how we respond to it is incredibly important work, but it is a long-term project, something that America neglected for five decades.  We turned the page.  We put American foreign policy with respect to the Chinese Communist Party in a new direction.  But there’s still an awful lot of work to be done.

QUESTION:  For those who don’t know your background, you are somebody who went to West Point and graduated first in your class.  So to be first in your class at West Point, does that mean everybody’s shooting at you all the time, to say he’s not as smart as we thought he was?  And there are a lot of famous people that’ve been first in their class – Douglas MacArthur, among others.  So did that produce a challenge for you to live up to that reputation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Oh, I don’t know about that, David.  I have lots of classmates who didn’t graduate first who have gone on to do amazing things in their life.  I was a good student, to be sure, but I haven’t thought much about that and how it’s impacted me here as Secretary of State, or as the CIA director, or my time in Congress.  There’s no doubt people like to make fun of it from time to time.  So be it.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you went to Harvard Law School, where you were also near the top of your class.  What propelled you to go to law school versus, let’s say, staying in the military?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  This was the early ’90s, and I was a young captain in the United States Army, and the military was downsizing.  There was lots of change.  The first Gulf War had just ended, and I had this opportunity, this incredible opportunity to go to Harvard Law School, and so I took it.  I don’t regret that at all.  I learned an awful lot.  I learned a lot about different viewpoints at Harvard Law School, many of which are different from the ones that I hold.  But I learned a lot.  I became a better writer.  I think I became a more crisp thinker as well.  And so I think the – enormous benefit.  It was three years that was a long slog, but I’m glad that I did it.

QUESTION:  So you practiced law in Washington for a while, but then ultimately you got involved in business, did something in Kansas, and then you ran for Congress.  Why did you want to be a member of Congress?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I was watching what was taking place.  I was a small business owner.  You’re right, David, I first had ownership interest in a company called Thayer Aerospace, along with three of my best friends in the whole world, then later ran a company that was in the oil and gas industry.  Both of them were machine shops.  These were blue collar workers in complex, high-end, engineered, metallic products and the like.  I loved doing that.

But I watched government getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  I watched the regulatory environment deteriorating.  I could see that if this continued, that the capacity for American entrepreneurship and growth, and the chance to take care of the families that I was responsible for as the president of Sentry International or the CEO of Thayer Aerospace might well be diminished because of government action.  And so an opportunity arose when the congressman from my district had decided to run for the United States Senate, and I seized it.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you ran for Congress, and you got elected.  You served three terms, is it?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  That’s right.  I was elected four times, but in the very beginning of my fourth term President Trump selected me to be his nominee to be the CIA director.

QUESTION:  Let’s talk about that for a moment.  You were not an avid Trump supporter, as I understand it.  In the campaign, you were – I’m not sure who you were supporting, but you weren’t advocating that he should be the nominee or the president.  So how did you get the relationship with him such that he would select you to be the head of the CIA at the beginning of his administration?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I worked hard for President Trump from the convention forward.  I had campaigned on behalf of Senator Rubio in the primary.  But as soon as I saw the option set between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it became clear to me which was better for the United States of America.  I worked hard for him, and as a result of that and the fact that I had known Vice President Pence as well, I got a phone call in the – I think it was the second week of November of 2016, asking me to come to New York and interview with President Trump, then President-Elect Trump, to be his CIA director.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you got the position, and then when you get to be the head of the CIA, do you realize that some of the nation’s secrets are not as secret as you thought they were – they’re in The New York Times or The Washington Post – and were you surprised at how many things that you’re working on that are secret are actually known to the public relatively shortly thereafter?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, I wasn’t particularly surprised.  You’ll recall I was on the House Intelligence Committee for I think four years prior to my time as CIA director.  So I had seen this intelligence, much of this intelligence.

I’ll tell you what I was surprised with when I went to the CIA, David, is the breadth and scope and scale and the capacity of the American intelligence community.  The – when you’re a member of the House Intelligence Committee, you do that as one of the things that you do.  You spend time back in Kansas, you work on – if you’re in Kansas, you work on ag issues, you work on aircraft manufacturing issues, you work on all the things for U.S. domestic politics.  You spend only some of your time working on intelligence issues.

When you become the CIA director, you have access and exposure to a far broader range of activities, and you see the capacity for us to use these tools in ways that provide important information for our leaders so that they have the best, most real-time information in the world.

It’s true, much of what’s classified ends up sometimes in the Post or in The New York Times.  I regret that.  It’s not in the best interest of the United States of America for that to happen, but there’s lots of things that the United States Government is doing that are properly taking place in classified lanes.  And the American people should know these are things that are good for them and for America’s security.

QUESTION:  Now the CIA, I think since the time of President Kennedy, has prepared a president’s daily brief, which is the most important intelligence information given him every day orally and in writing.  President Trump tended not to read it and so therefore you tended to often brief him orally.  Is that how you got to know him better and better over the years so that he would make you Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah David, I did have a lot of chance to spend time with President Trump when I was CIA director.  If I understand the history right, different presidents have done this in different ways.  This president wanted to be briefed by his senior leaders.  There was also always a CIA briefer alongside me – a great guy – for most of my time as CIA director.  So we would do it together.  There were other senior leaders there as well.  The vice president attended from time to time.  The DNI also attended these briefings.

But it was a chance for me nearly every day to go see the president, to talk to him about the intelligence that was – had been gathered, what we knew, the confidence levels around what we knew to give him the context for the information that would allow him to make informed decisions.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So right now the Intelligence Community is saying – your former colleagues at the CIA, among other intelligence agencies – that we have been hacked by the Russians.  And I think you have made a speech in effect saying that the Russians were in your view responsible for it.  Do you stand by that position and your – any doubt that the Russians were the hackers in this most recent instance?  And how damaging has the hack been?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, the United States Government is constantly under threat from cyber attacks.  The particular incident that I think you’re referring to was in fact a Russian operation, but as we sit here today, David, there are North Korean efforts.  There are Chinese efforts.  There are Iranian efforts.  There are Iranians from non-state sponsored entities as well all trying to get inside U.S. systems – not only U.S. Government systems, but U.S. commercial, private sector systems as well.  This is an ongoing challenge, not led by the State Department, to protect our systems, led by DHS and the Intelligence Community and the FBI.

But it’s something that’s ongoing.  Defense is hard to play in the cyber space.  And identifying the appropriate deterrent response is also particularly complicated in cyberspace as well.  We’ve made progress in thinking about how to do that, but make no mistakes, there are bad actors, whether the bad actors are Iranian, Chinese, Russian, or otherwise who are even as we sit here today trying to figure out who to steal our secrets, how to take away American intellectual property, and all kinds of things that would do real damage to the United States of America.

QUESTION:  Now the United States doesn’t advertise what we do in response to these kind of hacks, but can you say that it’s likely that some kind of response will be given as a result of what has happened?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, I’d rather not comment on that, just to say we have an articulated vision for the appropriate way to respond, and I am confident that we have done that in each case as it was appropriate, and we will do in this particular instance as well in a way that matches – that matches the response that is most appropriate.  That’s all I can really say, David.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Let’s talk about some other things that have been in the news recently in your area of domain.  It is said that you are considering labeling Cuba a terrorist nation on our State Department watchlist, I guess it is.  Is that something you can comment on?  Is that likely to happen?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We don’t get out in front of decisions that will be made on designations, but the world knows Cuba’s evil hand in so many places.  I’ll give you the perfect example.  We’ve been working to create democracy for the people of Venezuela for our entire four years, and it is Cuban efforts, Cuban security operations, Cubans controlling the security apparatus inside of Venezuela that has inflicted massive pain on the Venezuelan people.  It is completely appropriate for us to consider whether Cuba is in fact sponsoring terrorism.  And if so, just like any other nation that is providing material support to terrorists, they too should be designated such and treated in a way that’s consistent with that behavior that they’re undertaking.

QUESTION:  I have been always wondering how Venezuela survives given the fact that its oil production is way down.  It doesn’t seem to have an economy that’s – that’s very productive right now.  How do you think Venezuela and the government in power there has been able to survive over all these years since Chavez died?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, you’ve seen this – rogue regimes who inflict massive pain on their people can often survive well past their sell-by date.  They do it by stealing.  They do it by oppression.  They do it by having control of the military or the capacity to inflict kinetic harm on people.  They put their people in information fear as well – that is, they have the apparatus that can communicate to their people and impose real emotional burdens on them.  They threaten them.  Regimes often can survive far longer than the people who are being harmed by them would prefer.

And we’ve done everything we can to deliver for the Venezuelan people a better outcome.  It’s tragic that Maduro continues to hang on and inflict so much harm.  I think – I think now, David, we’re up to 12 to 15 percent of the Venezuelan people have fled their country.  That’s a very telling statistic when that many people decide they just can’t hang in there.  They can’t stay where they want to be; they can’t be home.  We are very hopeful that the Venezuelan people under President – acting President – excuse me – President Guaido will see the light of day, and we hope that day comes soon.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Let’s talk about the Middle East for a moment.  The Abraham Accords, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, or Trump supporter or not, most people would say is probably a plus for Israel and other parts of the Middle East.  So who do you think deserves the credit for that?  Is that President Trump?  Is it the State Department?  The White House?  Who actually put together that – those agreements with several countries now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, it was a big team effort.  It was first enabled by President Trump who made some decisions at the beginning of his time as president which enabled us.  What were those?  Those were the simple recognition of the rightful capital of Israel being in Jerusalem, the homeland of the Jewish people; the fact that the Golan Heights was rightly part of Israel; the issue – the statement from the State Department which talked about settlements not being necessarily illegal in every situation.

The policy we took with respect to Iran – putting pressure on Iran, not taking Iran as our primary security partner in the Middle East, but in fact flipping the script and acknowledging that the Gulf states had the rightful capacity and Israel had the rightful capacity to defend themselves from Iran, and putting real pressure on Iran.  Those things all enabled the good work.

And then it was a team effort.  Jared Kushner, his team at the White House, our State Department team, the team at the Department of Treasury all had a hand in making sure that we delivered the outcome which enabled these nations to make the right decision, which was that Israel is not a threat, but a partner; Israel is a friend, not an enemy, and that they ought to normalize relationships with them.

It’s a good thing.  We’ve got a handful so far.  I’m confident that there will be more.  It’s the direction of travel.  It’s the direction of history.  And I’m glad that we were here to be the part – the partners for these countries that enabled them to get across the line to make this decision.

QUESTION:  Now one of the countries that most recently joined the Abraham Accords is Morocco.  And subsequent to that or around that same time that they announced their support, the U.S. Government announced that it supported Morocco’s control over Western Sahara.  And was that a quid pro quo, or that was unrelated to the agreement to the Abraham Accords?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So David, every situation with these Abraham Accords, these were a complex set of discussions and so there were lots of things taking place.  But make no mistake about it, whether it’s Moroccans or the Sudanese or the Bahrainis or the Emiratis – whoever it is that made this decision – we’re working with countries in Asia that I’m hopeful will make a similar decision before too long – they’ll make those decisions because it’s in the best interest of their country.

And I’ll give you the Emiratis as a good example.  Their decision to normalize their relationship with Israel allowed us to begin to develop a security relationship with them that is different.  So we are now going to sell them high-end American equipment to permit them to defend themselves.  Those are things that can happen.

And so you talk about quid pro quo – the truth is, these are how relationships change and how partners and security partners work together.  It’s true in Sudan.  It’s true in the Emirates.  It was certainly true with respect to Morocco.  We announced that we’re going to begin the process of establishing a State Department operation in the Western Sahara.  Those are things that can happen once nations make a decision that they want to be part of this structure, the structure that the Abraham Accords lay out.

QUESTION:  Okay so what you’re referring to as the high-tech equipment, the F-35s are now going to be sold to UAE, but that wasn’t a quid pro quo is what you’re saying?  It was a natural evolution of the relationship?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well we always – as you remember with respect to Israel, we always – indeed we have a legal requirement to make sure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, but that a concept, the idea of Israel’s security being central to how America thinks about not only its relationships, but its sale of American equipment changes when a country decides that Israel is not a threat but a partner.  And so you can begin to open up things that can happen that couldn’t have happened elsewise.

QUESTION:  Now when you last visited Israel you became the first Secretary of State to visit the West Bank – territories that are now occupied by Israel through settlements and also to visit the Golan Heights.  So was that a conscience statement to visit areas that previous Secretaries of State hadn’t been willing to visit?  And what do you think the purpose of your visit was in terms of sending a signal to the Palestinians and others in the Middle East by visiting those sites?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well not just the visits, David, but everything that the administration has done has been very clear – not just signals.  We’ve communicated directly with the Palestinians about the fact that they need to stop the model that they have adopted, which is that no deal is good enough for them.  In the end, the President laid down a vision for peace and his vision for peace included a really, really good outcome for the people that live in the West Bank.  They’ve rejected that.  They’ve rejected even the willingness to start a conversation about a conversation about this.  That’s unacceptable.

And so what we’ve done is whether that was my trip to Judea and Samaria, or my visit to the Golan Heights or the Abraham Accords, we’ve simply said we’re going to recognize what’s real – what the reality is.  We’re going to acknowledge that.  We’re going to ask Palestinian leadership to step up and do the same.  So far they have declined to do that.  I hope that they will.  I hope they’ll do it today or tomorrow or the next day.

If they do, if they get that right, I am very confident that they – they – they, being the people that live in these places, can live a far better existence than they do today, and they can have more control and autonomy over their own lives, more wealth and prosperity as well.  But so long as their leadership chooses to reject the willingness of the Israelis to engage in a conversation with them about how to move forward, then the plight of these people will continue to be challenged in ways that are just awfully sad.

QUESTION:  Now you mentioned earlier the Iranians.  Would you say by pulling out of the agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, we gained a benefit?  Because it seems that they have actually begun to develop more nuclear-enriched facilities than they had before, so what would you say has been the benefit of pulling out of the agreement that we had with the Iranians?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’d say three things.  First when President Trump came into office, the Iranians were growing their economy as 5, 6, 10 percent a year.  And they were doing so with American wealth that was funneled through European companies that were doing business there or the famous money that the Americans shipped to them to get the deal done.  All of this was creating wealth and capacity for the kleptocrats and the theocrats in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it was threatening the United States of America and our people.  Their capacity to foment terrorism around the world was expanding.  That’s not the case today.  Simply not.

They have reduced their ability to underwrite Hizballah, the Shia militias in Iraq.  Their work in Syria has now become more costly for them with the Caesar Act where we put real sanctions on Iranian activity that’s taking place there and on the Assad regime.  We have diminished their capacity to inflict risk and security threats to the people of the United States of America and, indeed, to people all across the world.

One of the core critiques from my time in Congress – David, you’ll remember I opposed the JCPOA vehemently when I was a member of Congress as well – was that the Iranians could start up their centrifuges any time they wanted to.  This was a deal where they had made a promise that they wouldn’t, but if they wanted to start those centrifuges up, in a snap they could.  And you’ve seen it.  You’ve seen it.  As they now think they may have a president come into office that will do a deal with them again, they’re going to raise their level of activity to threaten.  And so that the Europeans and the United States will once again kowtow and enter into a deal with them that presents them with enormous opportunity in America and the Gulf States with real risk.

You need look no further than the Gulf States and the Israelis – the people who have to live in close proximity to the Islamic Republic of Iran – to understand that the approach that the Trump administration has taken with respect to Iran was the right one, and that we ought not go back to the policies of the previous years to our time in office.

QUESTION:  There was a concern that on the first anniversary of Soleimani’s death, that there would be an attack by Iran on some U.S. facilities somewhere.  So far, the first anniversary has past and that hasn’t happened.  Are you still worry that there will be some retaliatory attack by Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look the

 

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Jan Jekielek of The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders Program

5 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Harry S. Truman Building

Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  Secretary Mike Pompeo, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be with you.  Thanks for the invitation to be here and have this great conversation today.

QUESTION:  Well, we’re going to focus on your “distrust and verify” approach to China and on religious freedom as well, since we don’t have a ton of time.  I’d love to talk to you about all sorts of things.  So in – when you were at – speaking at the Nixon Library, and this speech that kind of capped off the series of four —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  — about the approach to China, you mentioned that Chinese dissidents had been warning for decades about the nature of the Chinese Communist Party but were largely ignored.  And you’ve – you’ve changed this to some extent.  You’ve welcomed a range of dissidents to basically speak with you and then learn about these things.  And on International Human Rights Day, you actually sanctioned a Chinese official for gross human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners, which actually marks the first in 21 years of persecution of this group in China.  We actually wrote an editorial about it.  We’ve been covering this issue extensively.  So why do you think it took so long?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Goodness.  That’s a complicated question.  You go back all the way to Tiananmen Square.  We’ve known the nature of this regime.  And frankly freedom loving people across the world have known the nature of authoritarian regimes throughout history and yet we ignored it.  We ignored it in part because we had a foreign policy establishment that believed deeply that if we traded enough stuff with them, if we engaged with them, that the – some of the Chinese Communist Party would engage at least externally in the world on a fair and reciprocal basis.  And that was – that was patently false all the way through.

And yet the resistance from lots of quarters was enormous for a host of reasons, some of the economic; some of them just – truly people who thought they could get to a better place.  It’s clear not true.  President Trump recognized that when he began his campaign and then when he took office.  We’ve now changed fundamentally how I think the West looks at China, not just the United States.  Even when you look at Europe, Australia, and South East Asia, they know too.  They know that the Chinese Communist Party is up to no good.

And so while these dissidents were ringing the bell and telling us of these problems, we looked past them.  We had other challenges.  We were involved in a very serious counterterrorism campaign appropriately so.  And we took our eye of this enormous threat and now – it’s now upon us.  It’s now inside the gates.  The Chinese Communist Party is here in America and the Trump Administration has begun in every dimension to turn the ship in the right direction to get America to once again do the right thing and protect itself from this Communist threat in China.

QUESTION:  And you’ve focused I think more than any secretary of state than I can remember on religious freedom.  And of course this dimension fits into the Chinese question dramatically.  Again why is that?  Why is that important?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s so – it’s at the center of every civilization, this idea that human beings have inherent dignity because of their humanness.  And if you get that piece wrong, bad things flow from that.  Lots of diplomatic things – military bedlam – lots of bad things flow from that.  So we under President Trump’s leadership have focused on religious freedom not just in China but elsewhere but particularly with the Chinese Communist Party.

We’ve seen what they’re doing to the Uighurs in the western part of the country.  We’ve seen what they’ve done to Tibetans.  We now see them doing the same thing to other ethnic minorities including the people in Mongolia in the north part of China and then Christians throughout the entire country, right –  the Sinicization of the bible – these things that fundamental affronts to human dignity are something that is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.

And General Secretary Xi Jinping is no different.  He knows that he has to extend ever increasing power and control in order to maintain his capacity to rule.  And that shuts out the important space that religious freedom should have for every human being in the world.  And we’ve done our best to try and shine a light on that whether it was speaking to the leadership in the Vatican or speaking to religious leaders in other parts of the world and to – for me personally to get a chance to meet with some of these people who have been persecuted or had their families persecuted has been a wonderful personal experience as well to see these noble amazing people who simply want the capacity to exercise their own conscious rights.

I’m proud of the work that the State Department has done.  I’m proud of what President Trump and our administration have done.  And I am confident that the world will keep up this drumbeat demanding simply that the Chinese Communist Party permit people to exercise their God given rights to practice and to – and not practice their faith in the way that they so choose.

QUESTION:  So you’ve gone to great pains, it seems to me anyways, to separate the concept of the Chinese nation and the Chinese Communist Party in people’s minds and presumably here at the State Department.  Why is that so important to you?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, there’s a lot of history, the dynasties in China.  The history of this place is long and storied, and the people who occupy this place are good people.  Sadly, they live under the jackboot of an authoritarian regime that denies them the capacity to grow their families.  For the longest time, they were denied the capacity even to have children in the way that they wanted to.  There was selective abortion taking place.  Some of the greatest tragedies of civilization of the last 50 years have taken place inside of China.

But it’s not the people driving that.  It’s these leaders who are stealing money, driving state-owned enterprises to do things that are disconnected from the way the world ought to operate, and denying – while lifting some folks out of poverty, to be sure, denying the basic political freedoms that every human being is entitled to.

And so I admire the Chiense people.  I am confident that the Chinese people want a different path forward.  They want their freedoms, and it is the Chinese Communist Party denying them.  But it is important to keep them separate.  We have – there are great Chinese people who live all across the world, including here in the United States of America.  We want to honor them and we admire them, and we hope that they too will join the call to change the nature of how this regime behaves in its international activities.

QUESTION:  So you’ve said that at this point we can never really go back to the status quo with respect to China, which is essentially, I guess, what was the status quo four or five years ago.  I guess the question is you – I think you’re the 70th secretary of state.  There’s a larger turnover than presidents.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  I joke about that all the time, yes.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  So, well, what can ensure that this type of approach to the Chinese Communist Party is maintained whenever it is that you – that the next rotation happens?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I think people all across the world aren’t going to let this happen.  I certainly think Americans are now more attuned to this threat.  For a long time, America’s leaders denied that this was taking place, so I think people couldn’t see it or feel it, or their leaders were telling them, no, it’s okay if they steal millions of jobs from people in Kansas or Iowa who invented something, or they steal some technology invented in the Silicon Valley or in the Boston Corridor.  American leaders said, that’s okay, we’re going to go make a pretty penny; don’t worry.

Those days are gone.  I think people saw, too, with this Wuhan virus, I think they saw the nature of the regime up close all across the world.  And I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen it in polling data, but more importantly as I have traveled the world and spoken with people.  I think they understand the nature of this regime in ways that they didn’t three, four, or five years ago.  I think we are in part responsible for that.  But no one’s going back.  No human being who can see – whether they’re in Indonesia or Vietnam or Singapore, no one’s going to go ever acknowledge again that the Chinese Communist Party isn’t up to no good.  They see it.  They see it plainly.

And so I’m confident that this pressure that is now on the Chinese Communist Party is real, and not just because leaders are demanding it, because people all across the world can see it.  The true face of the Chinese Communist Party has been exposed.

QUESTION:  I’m inclined to believe that.  I’ve certainly seen a lot of shifts in thinking, but then I’m scratching my head here at this agreement on an EU-China treaty that of course I’m sure you’re extremely aware of.  I think you’ve even said that people in Brussels told you, “We’re not going to go back to the status quo.”  This treaty, if it actually goes through, seems to me like the opposite, like exceeding the status quo in the other direction.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Remember, trading with China’s okay, if they’re selling us widgets and we’re purchasing widgets and it’s fair and equitable and on a reciprocal basis.  If an American company or European company can invest in China with the same rules that they can invest here, and it doesn’t impact American national security, that’s fine.

What we can’t do is what we – we, the world can’t do – is what we’ve done for 50 years, which is every time the Chinese demand an exception – whether that’s an exception to national security policy, or a set of trade rules at the WTO, or as they – “the World Health Organization’s interesting, but frankly we’re just simply not going to do what they ask us to do, and we’ll co-opt them and politicize them” – those are the things we have to stop.

We cannot permit – we can’t continue to bend a knee to the Chinese Communist Party in the way that we have for 50 years.  They will take advantage of that.  They will do what General Secretary Xi Jinping says he wants to do.  So they will create a hegemonic capacity to have vassal states all across the world.  That’s not tolerable.  The ideas of freedom and liberty that we hold dear, that our Founders hold dear here in the United States, ought to be the rules basis for how the world interacts for the next 50 years.  And if we don’t stand up, if the West doesn’t stand up – and the West is an idea, not a location – if the West doesn’t stand up for the things that we know to be important, then in fact the Chinese Communist Party will prevail and our kids and our grandkids will live in a very different world.  None of us want that.

QUESTION:  Well, so here’s a challenging question.  At least to me it’s challenging.  We have – we’re still giving, here in America, tens of thousands of visas to Chinese students.  We already know that some of them are definitely expected by the Chinese Communist Party to basically work for them and at different levels of intensity.  How do we deal with that?  We’re still doing this, right?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So that’s right.  There’s some 300-plus thousand Chinese students on the average year that’ll be studying here in the United States.  To the extent those students want to come here and learn and be exposed to the West, that’s fine.  That’s, frankly, a good thing.  They’ll go back to their home country and they’ll see what freedom and liberty and the capacity to raise your family in the way that you want to – they’ll get a taste of it.  That’s good.

But sadly, we have experienced that the Chinese Communist Party and the MSS and PLA, the security apparatuses inside of China, have co-opted too many of these.  We kicked a couple thousand of them out that we could readily identify.  That hasn’t happened before.  We’ve now done a lot more work in the schools to make them aware of the risks associated with grants and research projects that the – that the Chinese Communist Party had infiltrated or at least had access to.  So we’ve put our research institutions in a better place.  We’ve shut down a whole bunch of Confucius Institutes just by calling them out for what they are.  And I’ve traveled the United States – sometimes been critiqued for this – but traveled the United States to tell the story.  I spoke at Georgia Tech, I spoke in Wisconsin about the Chinese Communist Party inside our gates, inside our government, inside our institutions of higher learning, inside our research institutions.

If we get that right, if we control and ensure that our security elements are protected in a way that is appropriate, then having Chinese students study here is perfectly fine.  But the whole world needs to do that.  It’s not just U.S. institutions.  They’re studying in institutions in Australia and in Europe and places around the world.  This isn’t just a U.S. challenge.  The whole world must take this on.

QUESTION:  And of course, there have been very significant shifts, exactly as you describe.  At the same time, we’re seeing – let’s call it Wall Street or investment still, as far as I can tell, full-steam ahead into China as much as they can.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I think that’s shifted a bit too, partly as a result of President Trump and the policies that he’s adopted, but I think many of them, too, saw the true face of the Chinese Communist Party during the coronavirus.  They say their institutions corrupted.  They’ve now seen state-owned enterprises compete in ways, even in just the last couple of years, I think they hadn’t fully recognized.

So you have begun to see supply chains shift to other places.  I think there is a deeper recognition amongst the business community today of the political risks of operating inside of China in ways that there weren’t two or three years ago.  It’s true, there’s still significant investment taking place there.  I’m reminded that President Trump has said, great, if we do this in a fair and reciprocal way, that’s what the trade deals were designed to do; if we do this in a fair and reciprocal way, that’s fine.  We have to protect our security issues.  But I think both the investment and business communities have taken on board the challenges from the Chinese Communist Party, and while change is often slow and sometimes one step forward and a couple steps sideways, I think they, too, have acknowledged this and will begin to move in a direction that performs the central function, which is protecting Americans and our security here at home.  That’s a military component and a deep economic component.  We want to make sure that people have good, high-paying jobs here in the United States and that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t steal them from us by doing things that are just completely unacceptable.

QUESTION:  So you’ve identified this approach of distrust and verify, I suppose modeled on – based on Reagan’s approach.  Some people think this is too antagonistic of language to speak to another nation, especially a large one like China.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Every experience I’ve had in my six years as a member of Congress and now four years serving in the Trump administration would suggest that anything but distrusting anything that comes from the Chinese Communist Party is folly.  They have broken promise after promise after promise – not just promises to the United States, promises to the world, promises to the people of Hong Kong, promises to their own people in mainland China, a promise to President Obama that says they wouldn’t militarize the South China Sea.  Time after time after time.  The Chinese Communist Party promises that if they have a virus problem that they’ll disclose it.  The list is endless.  They still, to this day, haven’t allowed the World Health Organization to begin its investigation of where this virus emanated from, and yet they promised they would.

No, I don’t think describing distrust but verify as the core model by which the United States should interact with the Chinese Communist Party in any way misses the mark in ways that you suggest that others have said.

QUESTION:  You mention China’s, I guess, activities around the virus, so to speak.  This is kind of an interesting question – there’s all this talk about foreign interference in the election and so forth.  And we know there’s a delayed report now that’s being put together about this.  We – from what I understand, we know the Chinese Communist Party is involved.  At the very least, the way they dealt with the virus, obviously, had a profound impact on the election.  I don’t think anyone would dispute that.  Any thoughts about this?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, I can’t say much.  I’ll let the Intelligence Community complete their work and issue their report as appropriate.  But the American people should know – I spoke about this is in Wisconsin – the Chinese Communist Party is all around us.  They are working in our schools.  They are working in our clubs and organizations.  They’ve put a face that’s called a civic organization when, in fact, it’s an element of the Chinese Communist Party information-gathering efforts.

This is the kind of threat that is different in kind than one we have seen in an awfully long time, and the responses that will be required will have to be different as well.  That certainly holds true for elections.  The Chinese Communist Party clearly lobbies hard, works hard, they have consulates across America where their diplomats are engaged in behavior that’s inconsistent with what we’re supposed to do as diplomats.  We shut down one of them because we – it was very clear that they were running a spy operation out of the consulate in Houston.  But the American people just need to be on guard in the sense of we need to be aware that the Chinese Communist Party is not acting in a way that is in America’s interest, and the leadership of the United States has to be very clear with the American people about that.

QUESTION:  We’re going to have to finish up in a little bit, but one thing I did want to ask you about is something I think a lot of people might not be aware of.  It’s this Commission on Unalienable Rights, if I have the name correctly, that you’ve commissioned.  And just very briefly, why is this so important to you and what’s its purpose?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We kind of began here.  The set of rights that our Founders recognized – didn’t create – they recognized that God had provided to each of us is central to the American story and the exceptional nation that we are relies on our fundamental understanding of America in the same way that our Founders did.  This Judeo-Christian of rights, natural rights, that to each of us are granted by God.

I watched around the world, I watched the human rights efforts that had begun in the 20th century and now into this one, and I saw it coming unglued at least here in America from our founding principles, and I wanted to go back and ask some experts on human rights to take a look at this.  So I impaneled a commission led by a woman named Mary Ann Glendon.  We had people from many different faiths and many different political backgrounds go back to the founding and say, tell me – tell me how our foreign policy could effectively be grounded in the American tradition.  And I asked them to do that, and it was fascinating to see because they also took a look at other traditions around the world – human rights traditions – and we’ve now launched a global effort to talk about these things that matter, these intrinsic rights that matter to each of us so much.

I hope your viewership will all go take a look – it’s a short report, it’s some 50 pages long – they’ll go take a look at it.  It goes back and it reminds us of the greatness of America and how smart and capable our Founders were and why that is so central to the successes that our nation has had.  These rights matter.  If all rights – if everything becomes a right, our foreign policy can’t be delivered in a way that is principled, and I wanted to get us back to that tradition.

QUESTION:  Well, Secretary Mike Pompeo, such a pleasure to have you on.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you.  Very nice to see you too.  Thank you.

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Myanmar Independence Day

4 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Myanmar on the occasion of your independence day.

The United States is committed to partnering with the people of Myanmar in support of the country’s democratic transition, national reconciliation, and economic transformation.

We will continue to work with your government, civil society, and youth to help achieve greater peace, prosperity, and freedoms in Myanmar.  May all the people of Myanmar enjoy a healthy and happy new year.

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Removing the Cuban Military’s Grip from Cuba’s Banking Sector

1 Jan

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the Department of State is announcing the addition of Banco Financiero International S.A. (BFI) to the Cuba Restricted List, effective upon publication in early January. BFI is a Cuban military-controlled commercial bank that benefits directly from financial transactions at the expense of the Cuban people. The Cuban military uses BFI’s key role in foreign exchange to give military and state companies preferential access, secure advantageous exchange rates, and finance government-controlled projects that enrich the regime. The profits earned from these operations disproportionately benefit the Cuban military rather than independent Cuban entrepreneurs, furthering repression of the Cuban people and funding Cuba’s interference in Venezuela.

President Trump has made it clear that he stands with the Cuban people in their longstanding struggle for freedom and against the communist regime in Havana. Adding BFI to the Cuba Restricted List furthers the Administration’s goal of preventing the Cuban military from controlling and benefiting from financial transactions that should instead benefit the Cuban people.

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