U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Remarks to the Press
April 29, 2020
Press Briefing Room
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. How are you all doing today? You’re all safe, healthy, good? I want to send my condolences first of all to the Americans and people all around the world who have suffered from the loss of loved ones because of this horrible virus.
Many Americans too are hurting because of the economic challenges. They want to get back to work. I was talking to some friends back in Kansas this week. They’re all anxious to get back to the lives they had back in November, December, and I’m confident that we will be able to get them back just as quickly as we can.
I want to talk about what we’re doing here at the State Department. We’re working, fighting hard against the virus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, and we’re working day and night to continue to bring our people home. The count is now some 72,000 Americans from 129 countries that we have returned home to their lives and their families.
But as we battle the pandemic, the administration – President Trump wants to make sure we execute our foreign policy mission. We are very focused on that even when the virus challenge confronts us all. That’s what I’ll spend my time talking to you about today.
First, our help to stabilize some of the world’s most unstable places. In Venezuela, I’m pleased to report that the multilateral effort to restore democracy is continuing to build momentum. I’ve asked my team to update our plans to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Caracas so that we are ready to go. As soon as Maduro steps aside, I am confident that we will raise that flag again in Caracas.
I also want to update the world on the Maduro regime’s connection to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime. Birds of a feather. This is the same terrorist airline that Iran uses to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East. These flights must stop, and countries should do their part to deny overflights, just as many have already denied landing rights to this sanctioned airline.
Also focused on Yemen. I commend Saudi Arabia for extending its unilateral ceasefire there now for a month.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Government have answered the special envoy’s call to lay down their weapons to stop fighting, focus on defending the pandemic – defeating the pandemic; ask the Iran-backed Houthis to simply do the same. It’s what’s required.
All parties must facilitate humanitarian access, and the Yemeni Government and Yemeni Government institutions, and observe the unity and territorial integrity of Yemen.
In Iraq, we’re watching closely as Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhami enters the third week of trying to form his government.
The Iraqi people need and deserve a government that frees the country from external intimidation, puts the prosperity of the Iraqi people first, and tackles the major challenges that continue to face Iraq. Iraqi leaders must put aside the sectarian quota system and make compromises that lead to government formation for the good of the Iraqi people, and for the partnership between the United States and Iraq.
The Iraqi government, too, must heed the call from many elements of Iraqi society to bring all armed groups under state control, and we welcome steps that have been taken in the past days in that direction.
Moving to a second category, our mission to protect human rights and freedom around the world.
I talked about this a little bit last week. We continue to monitor with growing concern Beijing’s increasing efforts to interfere with Hong Kong’s governance. The erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms is inconsistent with the promises that the Chinese Communist Party itself made under One Country, Two Systems. Any effort to impose draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong would be inconsistent with Beijing’s promises, and would impact American interests there.
Coming back to our hemisphere, we’ve noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers. We applaud leaders in Brazil and in Ecuador and Bolivia and other countries which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime, and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar.
We must protect our medical workers now more than ever. Governments accepting Cuban doctors must pay them directly. Otherwise, when they pay the regime, they are helping the Cuban Government turn a profit on human trafficking.
In a third line of effort, we continue to defend American interests in domains of growing importance.
I am pleased to announce we will reopen our consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, this summer for the first time since 1953. Its reopening will boost the shared prosperity and security of our friends in Greenland and Denmark, and strengthen our partnership with our Arctic allies. It’s a statement of America’s commitment to the Arctic, as non-Arctic states look to exploit the region for their own interests – as I warned of back at the Arctic Council just last year.
I mentioned too last week that we’re well underway in implementing the provisions of the 2019 NDAA on the 5G Clean Path. I raise this issue again of Clean Path so that Americans know that just as the Trump Administration has taken unprecedented action to defend our physical borders, so too are we defending America on cyber frontiers.
Simply put, in upcoming 5G networks, mobile data traffic entering American diplomatic systems will be subject to new, stringent requirements if it has transited Huawei equipment. The objective is that untrusted IT vendors will have no access to U.S. State Department systems. We will follow the letter of the law to ensure that we have a clean path for all 5G network traffic coming into all of our facilities, period. We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data and our networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party.
Finally, before I take a handful of questions, an update on our health and humanitarian aid to assist in countries who are working to fight the virus in their nation. Our team recently crunched some data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the philanthropy called Candid.
They found that Americans have devoted nearly $6.5 billion in government and nongovernment contributions to help countries fight COVID-19 — $6.5 billion. This is by far the largest country total in the world, and more than 12 times that of China’s combined contributions.
I’m especially proud of the work that we’ve done in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States Government has provided more than $32 million in funding to support the COVID-19 response in Pacific island countries. And we’re working with the Burmese Government, United Nations, NGOs, and others to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Burma, including among vulnerable populations. And we’re working with our friends in Australia, in India, in Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Vietnam to share information and best practices as we begin to move the global economy forward.
Our conversations certainly involve global supply chains, keeping them running smoothly, and getting our economies back to full strength, thinking about how we restructure these supply chains to prevent something like this from ever happening again. One example of our work together is with India. It’s lifted export bans on critical medical supplies, including pharmaceuticals used to treat some COVID-19 patients.
And a few days ago, I spoke with David Beasley of the World Food Bank[i]. He’s executive director. He reminded me that the American people, in their unmatched generosity, supply 42 percent of the World Food Programme’s annual resources, which feed nearly 100 million people around the world. We’ll continue to help meet the world’s food needs as the COVID-19 outbreak disrupts global supply chains around the world.
One message I want to make sure and repeat today: If you are wrongfully detaining Americans during this time, and they become infected and die of coronavirus, we will hold your government strictly responsible. All wrongfully detained Americans should be released immediately.
Morgan, now I’m happy to take a few questions.