QUESTION: Are China and the United States at a crossroads that could lead us into another cold war, perhaps even a cold war decade? In a speech today at the Nixon Library, Secretary Pompeo said this: “The CCP fears the Chinese people’s honest opinions more than any foe. And save for losing their own grip on power, they have reason – no reason to.”
That as China’s general consul in Houston tells Politico today in an interview that they do not plan to leave their Houston consulate.
Here now exclusively to respond to that and lots of other things today is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for speaking with us today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on.
QUESTION: Thank you. So let’s start there. The consul in Houston says that they do not have plans to leave that consulate right now. What’s your response to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, everyone knows the rules for diplomats: You’re only permitted to be there in a diplomatic status with the consent of the host nation. So I’m confident. We’ve had private conversations as well. I’m very confident that we’ll proceed in a way that makes clear that it’s not okay to use your diplomats to engage in industrial espionage, it’s not okay to steal intellectual property, it’s not okay to engage in those kind of behaviors. That’s the reason we did it. We did it to protect the American people, and we’re going to make sure that that happens.
QUESTION: I guess the question – they say that you’re – that the United States is abandoning the Vienna Convention and also violating the China-U.S. consular treaty. You obviously think that they’ve already violated both of those. But literally, physically, what if they say, “We will not leave,” what will the United States do?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Martha, I’m not going to speculate. We’re going to make sure that we protect the American people. President Trump began to talk about this threat back in 2015 in his campaign, and you’re seeing his administration begin to do the things that will lead to make sure that the American people are safe and secure and that the jobs that depend on American intellectual property aren’t lost to theft from Chinese diplomats that sit in a place in Houston, Texas with great access to American scientific know-how and business value.
QUESTION: There is discussion that China may retaliate by asking us to leave one of the six embassies that we have in China. We also have one in Hong Kong. And it looks like Chengdu and potentially Wuhan are at the top of that list. Will we be vacating any of our embassies in China, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, let’s go back to first principles. The first principles are this: For 40-plus years now – this is why I’m at the Nixon Library today – for 40-plus years America has turned the other cheek while we watched the Chinese Communist Party engage in activity that’s fundamentally not fair to the American people, it’s not reciprocal for the American people, and it doesn’t have the transparency we need so that we can engage with China in a way that’s fair for our people and provides security for our people. That’s what we’re aiming to do.
And so this decision about the consulate that was made is consistent with all – a whole bunch of other actions that we have already taken and a whole bunch more that we’re going to continue to do until we get the change. I talked about President Nixon saying that the important thing was that we could induce change from China. That’s the mission set that President Trump has set our course on.
So whether it is the indictments that have been handed down by the Department of Justice or the decisions we’ve made with respect to Hong Kong, all of those are aimed at inducing change inside the Chinese Communist Party for the simple purpose of protecting the American people.
And so the Chinse Government will get to make its decisions about our diplomats there inside of China. We’ll make sure we that we do right by the American people.
QUESTION: So, I mean, it sounds like you’re saying that this is a very ruptured relationship. And am I – if I – am I reading too much in to take from that that we may – yes, we may pull out of embassies in China. That might be part of this process.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, I talked today about actions not words. I was in Honolulu just a few weeks back. I met with Yang Jiechi. We had a wonderful discussion. But in the end, what matters are actions, the things that make sure that we protect the American people. President Trump’s trade deal was a good first effort at that. The phase one trade deal is important. If we get that right, there will be the beginning of a basis for us to expand a fair and reciprocal set of trading relationships.
But look at our diplomatic relationship today. They have many more diplomats here in the United States than we have inside of China, and their diplomats here in the United States have much more freedom of movement and much more access than our diplomats do inside of China.
SECRETARY POMPEO: All we’re asking, Martha – all we’re asking – is we want it to be fair and reciprocal, and that’s the aim of President Trump. It’s what we’re going to accomplish.
QUESTION: So you’ve talked about the sanctions that we have. There’s military exercises that have also become somewhat more prominent in the region. We have two hackers that just received indictments. Are we in a cold war right now with China? And if we’re not, it certainly looks like we are.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, General Secretary Xi has clearly taken actions that are aggressive and broken promises that are central to how great power nations behave, right? You remember he made a promise back in 2015 in the Rose Garden with President Obama. He said he wouldn’t militarize the South China Sea – you can go look; there’s now significant military activity there by China – and made a promise to the people of Britain and to the people of Hong Kong that they would have a 50-year deal of one country, two systems. He busted it. He broke it.
The United States is simply demanding that if the Chinese Communist Party wants to be considered in the league of nations that have great power and great roles and great importance, they’ve got to behave according to promises that they make and the rules that have been set out for sovereign nations to preserve freedom for their own people. That’s what we’re seeking to see happen.
Label it what you must, but President Trump understands that the previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat alike, turned the other cheek for an awfully long time and resulted in a real imbalance in the relationship between the United States and China. We aim to fix it.
QUESTION: I spoke to trade advisor Peter Navarro on this program several weeks back, and I said, “Is the trade deal basically over?” And he said yes, it is. He walked that back a bit, but it appears that it is. Is that fair to say at this point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I am hopeful that the phase one trade deal will be complied with by both sides. The Chinese Communist Party tells us that they’re going to fulfil their commitments. We have every expectation that they will. And our task will be to verify that they have done so. We hope that they do. And if they do, perhaps there will be an opportunity to build on that.
And what we’re not going to let happen is what we’ve allowed to happen before, is that they make a set of promises, they make a commitment like the phase one trade deal, and then oh, they try and they do a little bit, and America and calls it good enough. President Trump is not going to permit that to happen. We’re going to hold them accountable for the promises that they make, Martha.
QUESTION: President Trump just said moments ago that that trade deal is not as important to him anymore as it once was.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I understand that. I completely understand it. When you see what the Chinese Communist Party has done to our country and to the world with their failure to live up to another set of promises they made to the world about their responsibility if a pandemic began to break out in their country, the coverup that took place, you can absolutely understand why a trade deal like the phase one trade deal no longer ranks first of all the various issues we have with the Chinese Communist Party.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve seen across the world hundreds of thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars in economic destruction, wrought on this world because the Chinese Communist Party failed to live up to some basic commitments to the world.
QUESTION: You made a very strong appeal to the Chinese people in this speech, basically calling on them to call for a new form of government in China. Are you encouraging them towards regime change? And you said that we would encourage and empower – engage and empower. How will we do that? What – how do we play that role? What will that look like?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, I talked about several things, one of which is there are 1.4 billion Chinese people, and what I wanted to make clear in my remarks today is we want good things for them. They have raised hundreds of millions of people out of destitute poverty. We think that’s a good thing. We’re not trying to contain the prosperity for the people of China. We’re simply trying to preserve freedom for the people of the United States of America. That is the American task. President Trump when he was sworn in, and I when I was sworn in as Secretary of State, that’s the promise that we made.
And so what we are concerned about is not holding China down but making sure that we all get this right so that we can have a prosperous economy here in the United States of America and that we can hold them accountable in ways that preserve and secure freedoms for the American people. That’s the mission set. When I talk about the Chinese people, I’m talking about making sure that they have the opportunity to participate on a fair and reciprocal basis in the same way that we expect the American people will.
QUESTION: I guess but if I’m the Government of China listening to what you’re saying, it sounds like you are encouraging the people of China to rise up, to create a different – to push for a different form of government. And we see what’s happening in Taiwan, where they have a genuine fear that they might be invaded or attacked by the mainland. You look at what’s happening in Hong Kong, where they are experiencing a diminishment all the time of their independence. So those are very provocative words to the Chinese Government to say we want your people to push for a new form of government.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, that’s not what I said. Go back and reread what I talked about. This was a speech about the American perspective and the need for a global alliance of freedom-loving nations. This is what we’re demanding. We know that the Chinese Communist Party has a different system. They still have obligations to live up to promises, promises even that they make to their own people.
Our task – our task is to preserve freedom and security for our people, and we know we need partners to do that. We know we need friends. I was in London and in Copenhagen just the last two days talking to them about this. The whole world is beginning to see that when you bend the knee to China that bad things happen to your own country. And so our every expectation, what the whole – the world, indeed freedom-loving people all around the world, must demand is that the Chinese Communist Party live up to the commitments that it makes.
QUESTION: You talked a moment ago about your obvious concerns about this virus and the origins of this virus. Today in the United States we passed 4 million cases, which is obviously a milestone that is difficult for everybody to hear. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, said that the President calls it the China virus. She said that she is calling it the Trump virus as a result of the President’s handling of this virus. What do you say to that, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: One ought not to make a virus that has had such devastation in the United States a political matter. What one ought to do is to call out the people and places that resulted in this virus getting out of Wuhan, China. There is no mistake. There is lots of dispute about the precise origin of this virus, and we’d love to know the answers to that, but sadly, the Chinese Communist Party has prevented that.
But we know it came from Wuhan and we know they closed down Hubei province but didn’t close down travel to the rest of the world. That has caused enormous harm to the United States of America. So this is indeed a China virus. It emanated from there; make no mistake about it. It is not political. It is factual.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you very much. Good to have you with us this evening. Thank you for your time, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, thank you.