Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
June 24, 2020
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. Good to be with you all today. I want to start my remarks, as I often do, on matters relating to China.
As many of you saw, I met with Yang Jiechi last week in Hawaii.
We had a very frank discussion about the Chinese Communist Party’s unprovoked aggression on a number of fronts and I pressed him for more transparency on COVID for the good of the world.
We’re concerned by Beijing’s behavior and we’re not the only ones. And he and I talked about that. Our friends and partners are finding their voice and taking action to counter China’s malign activities, particularly in Europe:
Within the past week, I spoke to EU foreign ministers and also to a democracy forum in Copenhagen. They clearly recognize the threat that China poses to the free world and to the rule of law.
After the EU-China Summit this week, both President Michel and President von der Leyen publicly echoed many of the concerns that I’ve expressed previously.
While I was meeting with Yang, the G7 released a statement condemning Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong.
The world’s leading telecom operators – including Spain’s Telefonica, as well as Orange, O2, Jio, Bell Canada, Telus, and Rogers, and many more – are becoming “Clean Telcos.” Disconnecting from the Chinese Communist Party infrastructure.
They are rejecting doing business with tools of the CCP surveillance state, companies like Huawei.
I’ll speak more about how we’re working to consolidate Europe’s awakening to the folks at the German Marshall Fund in just a few days.
It’s all good to start, but we have to keep at it. The empty promises and tired platitudes of the Chinese Communist Party put forth at last week’s China-Africa Summit won’t create the free and prosperous future that the African people deserve.
And the U.S. will keep speaking up for the Chinese people, too. Last week, CCP authorities sentenced human rights lawyer and defender Yu Wensheng to four years in prison.
We continue to call for the release of all of those justly imprisoned in China for exercising their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Last item on China – a positive one, in case you all think I only criticize them:
The CCP is raising the protected status of pangolins and removing them from its official list of animals used for approved traditional medicines. I think that’s great news. I called on the CCP to take similar steps to respond to other endangered species and shut down high-risk wildlife wet markets permanently.
Moving on, today I have Nathan with me. We’re releasing our annual Country Reports on Terrorism. I hope everyone sees that this administration has taken on terrorist threats that other administrations simply downplayed:
We designated the IRGC, including its Qods Force, as a terrorist organization, the first time the authority has ever been used on a foreign government.
We kept pressure on Iranian proxies like Hizballah by encouraging our partners to designate or ban them, as Paraguay, Argentina, and now the United Kingdom did just last year.
Last year, too, we held the first of two ministerials focused specifically on counterterrorism in the Western Hemisphere. No administration has forged closer ties in our hemisphere and alliances working on important problems like counterterrorism as we have done.
The Defeat ISIS Coalition has – remains strong. It has completed the destruction of the so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
And thanks to our great U.S. military, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.
Now, to be clear, there’s still counterterrorism work to do: ISIS and al-Qaida branches and affiliates in Africa; Venezuela and Cuba cozy ties with terrorists; and increasing ELN attacks in Colombia are problems that remain.
But we’re undaunted in our pursuit of bringing terrorists to justice.
I’m pleased today to announce the State Department has increased our reward offer – now up to $10 million – for information about the location of the new leader of ISIS.
Coordinator for Counterterrorism Sales will today spend some time with you working through, talking you through his team’s report. He is here with me to answer all of the questions you have.
I mentioned previously for a moment the Maduro regime. A few comments on Venezuela:
Over the last two weeks, the illegitimate Venezuelan supreme court has decreed a new, regime-aligned electoral commission and stolen the name and branding of two major political parties, replacing their leadership with Maduro’s lackeys.
These are unconstitutional actions. They make a mockery of democratic processes, and the Venezuelan people are fighting to protect those very freedoms that they so richly deserve.
The best pathway out of the Venezuelan crisis is through a broadly acceptable transitional government to administer a free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Maduro regime has also mismanaged Venezuela’s abundant natural resources to the point that a country with one of the world’s largest oil reserves must import gasoline from Iran.
Today, the United States is sanctioning five Iranian ship captains who delivered around a million and a half barrels of Iranian gasoline to Venezuela in support of the illegitimate Maduro regime.
These captains’ assets will be blocked, and they won’t be able to operate in U.S. waters.
Mariners who do business with Iran and Venezuela will face consequences from the United States of America.
We will continue to support the National Assembly, Interim President Guaido, and the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore democracy.
Turning to another rogue actor, the Islamic Republic of Iran:
Last Friday, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution calling on Iran to provide the IAEA inspectors the information and access it’s obligated to provide. I want to thank Director Grossi and his team for their faithful work.
Iran’s denial of access to IAEA inspectors and refusal to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation of potentially undeclared nuclear material and activity raises serious questions about Tehran’s efforts and what it is precisely that they are trying to hide.
Iran’s refusal to cooperate is wholly separate from the JCPOA. This is simply about whether Iran is honoring its own legally binding safeguards obligations. If Iran fails – if it fails to cooperate with the IAEA obligations, the international community must be prepared to take further action.
Today, Special Representative Hook is briefing members of the United Nations Security Council on our diplomacy to prevent the arms embargo from expiring on Iran in October of this year.
Without action, on the 18th of that month, Iran will be able to purchase advanced weapon systems and become the arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world. This is unacceptable.
Iran has been under arms restrictions by the United Nations since back in 2007. And one of the greatest failures of the Iran nuclear deal was to allow these restrictions to expire without regard to how the regime behaved.
The resolution that we will present to the UN Security Council would extend the conventional arms embargo on the leading state sponsor of terror.
Our focus now is to work with the Security Council to pass this resolution. But in the event it doesn’t happen, I would remind the world that the Obama administration’s officials said very clearly that the United States has the unilateral ability to snap back sanctions into place.
Two quotes, first from President Obama. He said, “If at any time the United States believes Iran has failed to meet its commitments, no other state can block our ability to snap back those multilateral sanctions.”
And then my predecessor Secretary Kerry said, look, “If we’re not happy, we can go to the Security Council and we alone” – we alone – “can force a vote on… snapping back of those sanctions.”
The legal options in the Security Council are clear. Our great preference is to have a Council resolution that would extend the arms embargo, but we are determined to ensure that that arms embargo continues.
To change gears just a bit and then I’ll take some questions. We also assert ourselves as a force for good throughout the world. It’s not just about the dangers we face. Last week, we released an additional $93 million to boast – boost COVID assistance throughout the world, bringing the State Department and USAID’s assistance total to more than $1.3 billion, more than – across more than 120 countries.
Tomorrow, interagency leaders will convene the private sector counterparts as part of our program called “Asia EDGE” or “Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy.” Asia’s energy demand is projected to increase by 60 percent in 2040. And we’re proud to work through our revamped Development Finance Corporation to help pair up countries with American companies, the best partners for helping meet that need.
Also tomorrow, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, Ambassador John Richmond, and I will unveil the 2020 State Department Trafficking in Persons Report. Crushing human trafficking at home and abroad has been a high priority for President Trump and our administration, and you’ll hear plenty more tomorrow about how we will continue to do that.
One last item. As the country begins to reopen, the department is getting our passport team back on the field. In the coming weeks they will aggressively tackle applications that were put on hold because of the pandemic and provide fast and efficient service for Americans that they rightfully expect. I’m now happy to take some questions.