The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres:
Office of the Spokesperson
Confucius Institutes are clearly sponsored by Beijing: Confucius Institutes (CIs) are organizations primarily located on U.S. college and university campuses that push out skewed Chinese language and cultural training for U.S. students as part of Beijing’s multifaceted propaganda efforts. The PRC government partially funds these programs, under guidance from the CCP’s United Front Work Department. On August 13, 2020, the Department of State designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS), which serves as the Washington D.C.-based de facto headquarters of the Confucius Institute network, as a foreign mission of the People’s Republic of China. The opacity of this organization and its state-directed nature are the driving reasons behind this designation.
This action will not close the CIUS, nor will it require U.S. colleges or universities to close individual Confucius Institutes. Instead, designating the CIUS as a foreign mission will ensure much needed transparency by requiring the CIUS to regularly provide information to the State Department about PRC citizen personnel, recruiting, funding, and operations in the United States. With greater transparency, educational institutions can make more informed choices about the influence being exerted on their campuses and whether and how these Beijing-backed programs should continue to teach their students.
- The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), an organization affiliated with the PRC Ministry of Education, has historically served as the Beijing-based parent organization of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center and, through it, supports many of the individual CIs. Filings with the Internal Revenue Service indicate that CIUS is directly funded by Hanban.
- There are currently 75 Confucius Institutes operating in the United States, 65 of which are active on U.S. university campuses, with the rest functioning as standalone organizations.
- There are around 500 Confucius Classrooms based on K-12 campuses. Most are affiliated with one of the university-based Confucius Institutes.
Beijing’s influence on U.S. campuses: The influence of the Chinese government and impact of Chinese Communist Party ideology on Confucius Institute programming has long been a cause for concern on U.S. campuses, as has the governing arrangements of individual Confucius Institutes which often lack transparency. Confucius Institutes “are an important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup,” said Politburo Standing Committee ideology czar Li Changchun in 2009.
- A 2017 report on CIs by the National Association of Scholars found that some CI faculty face pressure to self-censor, contracts between the CIs and host universities are often not publicly available, that some universities are presented with financial incentives to not criticize China, and CI materials often present a selective knowledge of Chinese history by avoiding topics related to human rights abuses.
- A 2019 study by researchers from the University College Dublin, summarized in an Op Ed in the Washington Post, found that after a Confucius Institute opens, there is a statistically significant shift in the tone of local media stories in the PRC’s favor in the area where the CI is located. In 2014, the American Association of University Professors warned that Confucius Institutes further the political goals of Beijing’s leadership and threaten “the independence and integrity of academic institutions.”
- The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found that Confucius Institutes operate with heavy oversight from the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas propaganda and influence operation, noting that the former head of the United Front currently chairs the Confucius Institute’s Beijing headquarters.
- According to media reports, in 2018 a keynote speaker at Savannah State University had a reference to Taiwan deleted from her bio at the request of the co-director of the university’s CI.
Colleges are rethinking Confucius Institutes: Universities across the country and around the world have already begun to take a closer look at the programming of Confucius Institutes as part of a larger review of the scope of Beijing’s influence over higher education institutions globally.
- Over the past two years, dozens of colleges and universities in the United States have decided to break ties and close their Confucius Institutes.
- Universities in Sweden, Germany, India, and elsewhere have either closed their Confucius Institutes or are taking steps to mandate greater transparency from them.
- Shared concerns about the actions of the PRC government are part of the reason why the State Department and others in the U.S. government have stepped up engagement with universities on risks to research, threats to academic freedom, disclosure of foreign funding, and other matters. We encourage all relevant higher-education stakeholders — administrators, boards of directors, state governments, etc. — to review their relationships with China and especially with the PRC government to ensure they are protecting their institutions.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Vila Bled, Slovenia
QUESTION: So, Mr. Secretary, welcome. We’re so happy to have you here in our Slovenian gem.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you all.
QUESTION: It’s been quite a while – 12 years since George W. Bush was here, 23 since the last secretary was here. What took you so long?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s a good question. I regret that it’s been so long but it’s all about good things happening, and we made a great set of meetings today with the president, with the prime minister, with the foreign minister, each of whom have a shared understanding of the threats in the world. We spent a lot of time thinking about how Slovenia and the United States could work on these together, and I think we made great progress.
The announcement that we made with respect to protecting citizens – the 5G signing – protecting citizens’ property, their most fundamental information, was really, really important. And I appreciate the Slovenian leadership understanding that and working alongside us to make sure it’s only trusted vendors and systems that we’ll both operate together.
QUESTION: Ever since Trump administration is in power, we expected Trump to come. We expected a bit of preferential treatment since Slovenian language has been spoken in the White House. But joking aside, we do have a bit of a relationship deficit with U.S. unlike with Russia. Why is that so?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t think that’s true at all. I see my Slovenian counterparts all across the world. I see them in meetings when I attend EU gatherings; I see them at NATO. This is a country that is deeply connected to the West. I think just the opposite of that. They’ll travel to Washington and I’ll see them wherever in the world. It’s less important that somebody’s physically located in a certain place. It’s much more important to see the outcomes, the good things, the good works that are being done together, and that is certainly the case with this government who understands the connectivity to freedom-loving peoples all around the world and is prepared to do the right thing to make sure that the Slovenian people are part of this important transatlantic alliance.
QUESTION: You mentioned 5G signing, but I want to stay with – a bit with Russian relations. Part of your tour is also to talk about energy and independence from Russia. Slovenia had Westinghouse nuclear reactor since 1981.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yep, coming up on 40 years now.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. It probably was the first one in communist territory. You have talked with energy executives today. Any outcome?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so the outcome was real clear. We’ve made abundantly obvious, I think, the need to make sure that there’s energy diversification here. Whether that’s the natural gas that comes into the country or it’s the power plant that is built, we wanted to make sure they understood that Western technology – there’s great scientists, great innovators here in Slovenia. It is these ideas of freedom and property rights and democracy that ultimately lead to energy security, and so I wanted to make sure they understood that America was completely prepared to assist them on each of those endeavors, whether it was on clean technology they were looking for, or their nuclear power plants being contemplated, or the opportunity to deliver natural gas from the United States as well. We’ll be great partners with Slovenia, making sure that the Slovenian people have the energy they need from diversified sources.
QUESTION: I want to talk a bit of – about defense cooperation, also Russia is in play here. Our prime minister, he’s an avid Trump-like Twitter user, and he tweeted on June 28th: “US troops from @NATO alliance are welcome in #Slovenia.” He was commenting on the realignment of U.S. troops. Do we expect any U.S. troops in – significant U.S. troops in Slovenia, or is there going to be any different mil-to-mil cooperation? You donated a lot of equipment to Croatia, Slovenia not so much. What’s been – what will be going on in the mil-to-mil or defense cooperation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I actually think the military relationship between our two countries is very powerful, very important. As for particular assignments, I’ll leave that to the Secretary of Defense to make announcements with regard to, but your observation is right. What you saw the United States announce now – goodness, I guess it was maybe a month ago – we’re committed to making sure that Europe is secure. We want Europe to do its part, but we’re committed to this. We’re going to make sure we have the right forces in the right places. Everybody – there’s a tendency to just talk about troop numbers, but we all know the real threats today aren’t just about troop number, right? It’s certainly about aircraft. It’s certainly about cyber threats. It’s about space. It’s about all these other elements of security. And so —
QUESTION: No tanks in wars.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There are fewer tanks, but as a former armor officer, more tanks always is a better answer. But seriously, right, the threats are different, and so to just talk about troop numbers misses the point. What Slovenia and the United States are working closely together on is to make sure we’ve got the right defenses, the right security mechanisms, the right set of understandings to preserve not only security for the Slovenian people, but it’s important to the citizens of America as well. That certainly applies to counterterrorism challenges too.
QUESTION: If we can move to China, a question on 5G. You were once asked if Sino-American rivalry is a new cold war of 21st century, and you argued it’s not a matter of U.S. against China but rather a difference – a conflict – between freedom and tyranny. Why do you say so? Because in Slovenia we have a lot of this noninterventionist, like business community is arguing, well, let’s play both sides, let’s not get involved when giants rumble. What would you say to those that want to be unaligned again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Chinese do not intend well for Western ideas. They have a different model. And so I was a business person. That’s what I did for a long time. I wanted to sell things. I wanted to make money. I wanted to take care of the families that worked for me.
The Chinese Communist Party has a different vision. And so for a long time, the West, the United States included, said we’re just going to trade with them and things will get better. It turned out it didn’t work. In fact, it got more dangerous; it got more insecure for the West.
And so we’ve got to stand up for that. We’ve got to make sure that when we do a business deal with the Chinese that we distrust and verify, that we make sure that this is something that’s actually in our best interest and not a Chinese debt trap. We’ve seen this happen all across the world. We’ve got to make sure it’s not their effort to take a state-owned enterprise and sneak it in in a way that will put the Slovenian citizens’ private information on their servers inside the Chinese security apparatus. Those aren’t good things.
If we can do a straight-up commercial transaction with the Chinese, I think everyone ought to. There are real risks associated with that. And one of the things we talked about today was how to make sure that we get the right screening mechanisms, the right processes in place, to make sure that we protect both the American people and the people of Slovenia as well.
QUESTION: All right. You have espionage laws in China since 2016. We have a quite good argument against Huawei and ZTE. I’m not accusing you of anything, and I am not into “what about-ism,” but the Chinese used one of your arguments against you. You had – you have quotes or remarks in Texas, and you say as the CIA director we lied and cheated, we stole. And why is it – your son said that’s not how we roll in West.
But then again, you had programs like global surveillance program, prison. You have NSA tapping Angela Merkel’s phone. Why is China’s play so different that you need Slovenia onboard there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they couldn’t be any more different. The line from Texas the Chinese like to use – go see the whole statement or you shouldn’t use it in your interviews. You’d be better off not using it. I was – I said it in jest.
Every country engages in espionage for its own protection, right? There’s a long history of that. The Chinese are engaged in a global fundamental commercial espionage effort the likes of which the world has never seen, and it’s something the United States simply doesn’t do. We don’t do commercial espionage. We don’t come steal secrets for the purpose of making our companies more productive and more powerful.
The comparison that you make is just completely off the mark. This is a whole-of-government effort from an authoritarian regime, and you can see what’s happening. You can see what’s happening in western China – the worst human rights violations of this entire century.
This is not comparative. They’re using their intelligence services, their information collection, to destroy lives, to force sterilization on people. This is not remotely comparable to what any Western country does. The comparison is inapt. And when people suggest somehow that there is a parallelism, or to your point of “well, what about this,” it’s a gross misunderstanding of the dangers that the Chinese Communist Party presents.
QUESTION: Yeah, it was sequitur. For the end, if you bear with me, I have two quotes: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Are we living in tough times, Mr. Secretary? Are you optimist or realist? Because you said we won the Cold War when Nazism —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: But in Europe right now, you have politicians even in Slovenia that are favoring sides that collaborated with Nazi Germany. We have a lot of populism. Are you optimist?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I am. I spoke in Munch this last winter and said my – the theme of my remarks was that the West is winning. I deeply believe this. I believe that countries like Slovenia know that the right direction – for their own economic prosperity, for their kids and for their grandkids – the right direction are the simple ideas of freedom, of a free press – whether we like them on any given day or not – what they say – these are the central underpinnings of democracies. And I think the people of Europe and the people of the United States both understand that, and I am convinced that we will prevail.
QUESTION: We left out – for the end – we left out our President Pahor. Did you have a nice lunch?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I had a great lunch. It was a great visit with all of your leaders.
QUESTION: Did you get any Instagram photos with him? He’s really big on that. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see him take one, but maybe he did.
QUESTION: All right. You should follow him. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir. Have a good day.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
The United States continues to stand with the people of Sudan and the aspirations of the revolution that ousted former President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. We support the civilian-led transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who took office in September 2019. We strongly believe that Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration provides the best roadmap to begin the transition to a just, equitable, and democratic society. Unfortunately, former Bashir-era officials and others continue to undermine Sudan’s nascent democracy.
The Secretary of State is implementing visa restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 212(a)(3)(C) on individuals residing both inside and outside Sudan who are believed to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged, directly or indirectly, in undermining Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government’s efforts to implement the July 17, 2019, Political Agreement and August 17, 2019, Constitutional Declaration. This would include obstructing the work of civilian ministers, stalling implementation of provisions of the Constitutional Declaration, delaying preparations for drafting a new constitution and preparing for elections in 2022, and engaging in corruption or the abuse or violation of human rights in Sudan, which would weaken the authority of the civilian-led transitional government. Such visa restrictions could include the immediate family members of these individuals.
This decision reflects the Department of State’s commitment to work with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the civilian-led transitional government, civil society, and others in their efforts to deliver the ultimate goal of the Sudanese people: “Freedom, peace, and justice.”
The list of these individuals is not publicly available; however, any application they may submit for travel to the United States will be adjudicated according to established guidelines.
The United States remains a steadfast supporter of Sudan’s peaceful, democratic transition.
Office of the Spokesperson
Secretary Pompeo will travel to Austria on August 13, 2020, to deepen bilateral ties between the United States and Austria. He will meet with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, and other government officials.
Austria has long played a vital role in international efforts to build a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for Europe and the rest of the world. Our economic relations are robust, and the United States is Austria’s largest export market outside the EU. Our scientific, cultural and people-to-people ties are equally vibrant.
– U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, October 25, 2019
- The United States and Austria have a long history; diplomatic relations were established with the naming of Henry A. Muhlenberg as the first American Minister to Vienna in 1838. Our countries share common democratic values and perspectives on human rights, the rule of law, and a shared vision of peace and freedom for all. We are bound together through myriad people-to-people contacts in business, the arts, and academia. Austria and the United States are partners in promoting global security and prosperity.
- Austria is a large investor in the United States, and several Austrian companies have recently announced new investment commitments including Borealis, Egger, Rauch, and Red Bull worth billions of dollars that will create hundreds of American jobs. S. goods exports to Austria totaled $5.7 billion in 2019. The United States was Austria’s second largest export market in 2019 after Germany, and its third largest trading partner worldwide. Last year Austria was among the top-ten growing trade and investment partners of the United States.
- President Trump met with Chancellor Kurz in February 2019 to revitalize the bilateral relationship and explore new avenues for Transatlantic cooperation, address global and European regional conflicts, promote economic prosperity, and strengthen energy security. The Chancellor’s second visit to the White House scheduled for March was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COOPERATION AROUND THE WORLD
- We have many common interests and objectives regarding policy in the Western Balkans, Israel, and Venezuela. Austria is also an important contributor to peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the D-ISIS Coalition, NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa.
- Austria and the United States enjoy a rich tradition of cultural, educational, and youth exchanges, with a range of programs from the Fulbright Austria program – which is celebrating its 75th year – to the A2A (Austin to Austria) program for young entrepreneurs, and the launch of the Austria to Silicon Valley program for entrepreneurs in 2020.
- Austria and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, OSCE, OECD, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, IMF, World Bank, and the WTO. Austria also is an observer to the Organization of American States.
AUSTRIA’S ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRADE
- Austria is a member of the European Union and World Trade Organization, offering export opportunities for U.S. companies of all sizes, with no significant trade barriers. The country represents a desirable, affluent market for U.S.-made products in Europe.
- Our trade and investment relationship is robust and growing rapidly, creating thousands of new jobs in both countries as a result. Recent Austrian governments have sought to encourage Austria’s reputation as an attractive regional headquarters location through economic reforms and by highlighting Austria’s historical and economic ties to the surrounding region. For 2018, U.S. Census data reported that U.S. exports to Austria increased particularly in pharmaceuticals, medical and measuring instruments, and electrical machinery and equipment.
- Austria plays an important role as both an East-West hub and a moderator between industrialized and developing countries. Austria hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other UN bodies, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Today, I requested that the Department of Transportation suspend private charter flights to all Cuban airports, including Havana. This action will suspend all charter flights between the United States and Cuba over which the Department of Transportation exercises jurisdiction, except for authorized public charter flights to and from Havana and other authorized private charter flights for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed in the interest of the United States. This Administration will continue to target and cut the revenue the Cuban government earns from landing fees, stays in regime-owned hotels, and other travel-related income.
The Cuban military and intelligence services own and operate the great majority of hotels and tourism infrastructure in Cuba. We urge travelers of all nationalities to consider this and to make responsible decisions regarding travel to Cuba. The suspension of private charter flights will deny economic resources to the Castro regime and inhibit its capacity to carry out abuses.
Our message to the Castro regime has been clear: The United States will continue to stand up for the Cuban people and against the regime’s abuses and its interference in Venezuela to prop up Maduro’s illegitimate hold on power.
Unfortunately, the Castro regime has not changed its repressive and undemocratic behavior. It continues to imprison journalists and democracy activists, to oversee horrific physical abuse, to perpetuate the de facto dictatorship in Venezuela, to repress freedom of religion or belief, and to silence and intimidate those who speak truth about the reality in Cuba.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Joze Pucnik Airport
MS ORTAGUS: All right. Go ahead.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I was just part of a conversation between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed MBZ from the United Arab Emirates, where they announced something we’ve been working on for quite some time, which is the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. This is an enormous historic step forward. It’s the first time in two and a half decades, so Egypt, Jordan, and now the United Arab Emirates has recognized Israel.
We hope this provides a good foundation for building on the vision for peace that the President has laid out, and I wanted to just thank all the participants – the Emiratis, the Israelis, and all of the team on the United States side – that brought this to fruition. It’s good news. It’s a really – real good piece of good news for the Middle East, and we’re excited about that.
MS ORTAGUS: All right. And wait – we’re about to take off. Anybody have something quick?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Quick question, yeah, before –
MS ORTAGUS: Any – go ahead.
QUESTION: How long have you been working on this? Can you give us any details on how it came together?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s been many years, right, obviously, that this has been in works, but certainly over the last few months we’ve been working diligently to find a place where everyone could get comfortable that this was the right way to move forward, to make sure we had security for Israel and that the Emiratis got the things that made sense where this was in the best interest of every nation, not only those two but all the nations in the Middle East.
MS ORTAGUS: Quickly, any —
QUESTION: Is this contingent on —
QUESTION: What message does this send to the —
QUESTION: — no annexation in the West Bank?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’ll see – there’ll be a signing at the White House. I don’t know exactly when it’ll be. There’ll be more details released then. I’m not sure exactly when that’s going be, but there’s a plan for them to happen.
MS ORTAGUS: Quickly.
QUESTION: What message is this sending to the Middle Eastern peace and stability?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That peace is the right path forward and that the Trump Administration’s vision for peace provides a good foundation for all of the countries of the Middle East to join together, to come together, and end this historic challenge that there has been. I hope the Palestinians will see this for what it is as well, a historic opportunity for the Middle East to be stable and peaceful.
MS ORTAGUS: All right. We’re going to – we’re in the air.
SECRETARY POMPEO: All right. Thank you, everybody.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Vila Bled, Slovenia
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. We’re about to start with the press conference of Prime Minister Janez Jansa and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but before we start, let me just say that it is our great pleasure, Mr. Secretary, to welcome you for the first visit since 1997. This visit truly marks our friendship and strong alliance.
I would also like to introduce Morgan Ortagus, who will co-chair this press conference with me. She is the spokesperson of the State Department.
The press conference will be translated from Slovenian into English only, and we will have first two statements, one from the prime minister and the second one from the Secretary. Then we will have two questions each, one from the Slovenian press pool and another one from the U.S. press pool.
Mr. Prime Minister, please.
PRIME MINISTER JANSA: (In Slovenian.)
MODERATOR: (In Slovenian.) Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Prime Minister Jansa, okay, you win. This is beautiful. (Laughter.) I want to thank Foreign Minister Logar, President Pahor, and the other Slovenian leaders for making this trip possible and so graciously hosting me at this beautiful place. I appreciate all the work that everyone put into making this happen. I know during this time of the coronavirus it’s especially difficult, and I know you did a lot of work, and I thank you for it. It is an important gathering.
Of course, when I told President Trump I was headed here, he was happy. When I told Mrs. Trump, she was even happier. She was very excited. She knows of your gorgeous country. It’s, of course, where she is from, it’s where she was born and raised, and she said to send her best, and I will speak to her about this great visit when I get back to Washington as well.
We had a excellent set of productive conversations today, discussions on a wide range of topics. The prime minister spoke about them. But they each reflect our growing friendship and the strategic partnership between our two countries.
It’s important now more than ever, perhaps. The contrast between free and unfree societies has never been clearer, and free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats. Slovenia has remarkably supported EU sanctions against Russia because it is concerned about its malign activity against Ukraine, but of course we face a number of other threats as well.
Chief among those threats is the Chinese Communist Party and its drive to control people and information and our economies. As you just saw, I was pleased to sign a joint declaration with the foreign minister that excludes untrusted vendors from 5G networks. This will benefit the people of this country and all of us who share information across complex network systems.
More and more here in Europe and in nations around the world, leaders are taking sovereign decisions to protect the privacy and individual liberties of their citizens. Whether it’s in Belarus or Lebanon or Hong Kong, people just want to live in freedom. I know, too, that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you’re doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us.
We also had extensive conversations about stronger trade and investment ties, the opportunities to invest so that each of our economies can bounce back from where they are today more strongly, more quickly, after this horrible pandemic that was birthed in Wuhan, China.
We also appreciate Slovenia’s strong support for the Three Seas Initiative and for hosting a successful summit just last year. I announced back in February of this year that the United States would commit up to $1 billion for sustainable and transparent digital, energy, and infrastructure projects connected to the Three Seas Initiative. We’re pleased, too, to help fund that important partnership. We understand Slovenia is in the process of making its decision. We urge a quick commitment.
In that same vein, I want to applaud Slovenia for setting up an investment screening mechanism to protect its people, and promoting the Blue Dot Network, which sets very high standards to make sure that infrastructure investment makes sense and protects the people of your country.
One more note on economic ties: We spoke about the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region, and I’m looking forward to a productive discussion here just in a few minutes with Slovenian energy executives to get the view from the C-suite leaders of those companies.
Lastly, I want to thank Slovenia for its remarkable leadership here in Europe. You made the exemplary decision to increase defense spending by nearly a billion dollars a year. That’s a testament to your country’s growing commitment to NATO and our collective efforts. And you’ve long been a positive force for promoting Balkan countries’ integration with Western institutions. That matters a lot to the United States and we’re deeply appreciative of that. I know that Slovenia will continue to reflect democratic values as you assume the EU presidency next year, and we’re very much looking forward to working with you in that new and important role for your country.
Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Secretary Pompeo. We are now beginning with the questions, and one question from the Slovenian press pool, Mr. Edvard Zitnik from national TV, please. You have the floor.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, why was it necessary to sign the 5G document today with Slovenia? What was so specific and not with some other members of the EU?
My second question, if I may: You already mentioned you are meeting Slovenian business community today. Could you give us some specifics about your ambitions in that area? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you for the questions. Look, as for the 5G document, it’s important in its own right. That is it is absolutely critical that every nation makes a good, sovereign decision for itself about how private information of its citizens is going to be handled. And what we want to make sure is all of us, America too, that we’re getting it right, that the people who put the infrastructure in place, the countries from which those systems emanate don’t have ready, easy, automatic mandatory access for their national security system. I’ll just be very blunt. That’s an absolute imperative.
It’s an imperative, then, larger for Europe and the United States to work together, because we have information that goes back and forth. We have American citizens that travel across networks that run all throughout Europe, and so it was very important that we get this right. And Slovenia has been a great partner. They’re sophisticated; their technology is very capable; their leadership understands the networked nature of this information. And so it was a great partner to sign this document with, and there was no time like today to do it. I’m very thrilled that we were able to get it completed in time for my visit.
Tell me your second question again.
QUESTION: Business community.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so more. (Laughter.)
There’s lots of places. Nations that have the rule of law and property – private property and contract rights and judicial redress, all the things that we all take for granted sometimes, are the kinds of nations that American businesses want to invest in. And I know the same thing’s true for Slovenian companies who want to grow their platform in the United States so they can have access to 300 million Americans as well.
Today we’re going to have a focus on energy issues as well. We believe it is incredibly important for American national security that Europe have a diversified energy base, that it has multiple sources, that it doesn’t have to depend for Russia on all of its energy. We don’t think that’s wise for any country. We think it puts Americans at risk too. And so I want to talk about how we can work together to reduce that national security risk while providing safe and affordable and clean energy for the people of Slovenia as well. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Morgan, it’s your turn.
MS ORTAGUS: Sure. Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. For Mr. Prime Minister, I wanted to ask you – you talked about democracy and freedom at the beginning – if you had any advice for the Secretary of State about the recent – how to deal with the recent elections in Belarus and the protests going on there. Or if you wanted to give advice to President Lukashenko, what would it be?
And then I wanted to ask, for Mr. Secretary of State —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t wait to hear that. It’s going to be great. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, they’re headed for the EU presidency. So for Mr. Secretary of State, you’ve mentioned cooperation in trade a lot this trip and commercial ties as a way of strengthening ties with the U.S. almost as an alternative to Russia or China. I wonder if you have any new cooperation to announce in those areas in the Czech Republic or Slovenia or have heard of any others since the trip started. And also if that kind of cooperation makes sense in this region, does it make sense in Asia as well? The Taiwanese president has offered to start trade talks with the U.S. and I think that’s just an offer that’s hanging out there that we haven’t heard a public response to. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Go ahead. Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER JANSA: Well, I’m afraid there are other people in Slovenia which Mr. Lukashenko would listen to their advices more than to my advices. But I think that only peaceful solution for the current crisis in Belarus is to repeat the elections under the strong presence of the international observation missions. I think that if President Lukashenko agrees on that, this could solve the whole situation there. So I think that – and Slovenia is already making some initiatives to create a pressure for this to happen. We hope that European Union will act with – it seems so that we are acting with a unanimous voice and we see the same approach from the United States. And I think this is the part of – half of the solution.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Just to follow up on that, I’m confident the EU and the United States both share the same concerns about what has taken place and what is taking place in Belarus, and I’m very hopeful that we can collectively work in a way that gets a better outcome for the people in Belarus.
As for the commercial transactions, they happen every day without us getting in the middle of it. Our mission set is to get out of the way, to reduce trade friction, to reduce trade barriers, to come to a set of common understandings, standards, and the like so that free nations, likeminded nations, can trade at a higher level.
I know it’s always cool to show up with a big commercial announcement, some big project. We hope we can do those things too, but in the end, what we spend a lot of time talking about is how can we set up a rules-based system where likeminded nations, whether that’s the Australians, the Indians, the Japanese and the South Koreans – you referred to Taiwan and Asia – and European countries, South American countries that share our views of property rights and the rule of law as well, and certainly between the United States and Slovenia. We hope that we can set up the right frameworks, this – that right rules system so that you can trade easily between the two countries, that you can invest easily, one country amongst the other, where we can have exchanges among our academic institutions as well, places with real technological capability. I’m very confident that the set of conversations we had today will increase that activity between our two countries and between the United States more broadly and Europe as well.
QUESTION: And what about with Taiwan, that kind of a framework?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re trying to figure out precisely how to proceed with that. I don’t have an answer for you today that I’m prepared to provide, but I was following closely Secretary Azar’s travel there, where we had a good conversation about how we can reduce the risk not only that is ongoing from this pandemic, but reduce the risk from the potential next one as well.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. With this, we conclude the press conference. Thank you for your attention and participation, and I wish you a nice afternoon. Enjoy Bled. The sky is with us. Thank you.