QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, I was with you back in Brussels last December when you gave that speech before the German Marshall Fund talking about Trump’s view on policy, his view of international institutions and multilateral agreements. You recently said at the Claremont Institute you didn’t get a lot of applause for that. I remember that. But you did talk about reforming these institutions rather than the U.S. abandoning them. Have you seen improvements in our allies meeting their obligations and improvements in these international institutions since that time?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Emerald, we’ve seen some progress, not nearly as much as we would hope. As I spoke about in Brussels, right, it’s not about multilateralism for the sake of multilateralism. It’s where does it make sense to join together as nations, communities, to achieve common sets of ends. So we’ve made progress. It’s certainly the case that more NATO countries are participating more, providing more of their resources to make sure that our collective defense is secure. We’ve seen some success in Asia as well, Southeast Asia, nations forming in an organization called ASEAN who are stepping forward to do the right thing for their own defense. So we’ve made real progress, but there’s a lot more to do.
QUESTION: Well, what would you like to see?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Every country has to make a fundamental decision. Are they going to protect their own sovereignty or are they going to count on someone else to do it for them? President Trump’s view and our view is we each have the obligation. President Trump talks about it as “America First.” That doesn’t mean America alone. There’s lots of places where we’re collectively better off if we work together, but you have to be realistic and you have to accept that the first responsibility – to grow your own economy, to secure your own nation, to ensure that your borders provide you with the sovereignty that you need – that first responsibility falls on the leaders of those countries, and we’re asking every one of those nations to step up to do that, and then we’ll be happy to be a good partner alongside them.
QUESTION: As part of the Trump foreign policy, there’s also been a revolution in thought in regards to the U.S. Government’s relation to China. It seems as almost, to this administration, China’s the number one foreign policy threat. As Secretary of State, how do you feel about the China threat?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In some ways, our policy had to change as a result of changes that have taken place and how China has begun to engage in the world. As their economy has grown, as they have become more sophisticated, their weapons systems with greater capacity, their technological capabilities greater, they’ve begun to use them in ways that present real risk to the United States. I think that’s why you’ve seen President Trump push back to make sure that we could trade with them on a fair, reciprocal basis. That’s why we’re ensuring that our networks here in the United States are trusted and secure, so we’re not going to allow in systems that are owned by the Chinese Communist Party. Those are actions that the United States is taking that are necessary to make sure that America’s economy can continue to grow, and that America can continue to be safe and secure.
QUESTION: Is this the beginning of another Cold War? And is it going to take 50 years to resolve like the Soviet Union? Is it —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh goodness, the choice will be – the choice will be made in the years ahead. It’ll certainly be made in the way that the world responds to China, and then China will have to make a choice as well. It will have to decide if it wants to participate in a rules-based order where transparency, respect for intellectual property rights, the absence of continuing to expand their weapons systems into the South China Sea – if they make those set of decisions and behave in a way that is consistent with taking care of their people, providing for their own security, not acting with the goals of imperialism – if they do that, then we won’t be in that place. But if they choose a different path, an expansionist path or a path that behaves in the world where you show up and offer deals that aren’t truly economic deals, right, with their Belt and Road —
QUESTION: Like the Belt and Road.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the Belt and Road, and other offshoots of that that aren’t economic deals. They’re really deals about political influence. If that’s the tools which they use to choose to compete around the world, then I’m sure that the world will respond in a way that has to push back against them.
QUESTION: You had a lot to say about the Belt and Road as far as how you call it corrupt. And it politically puts people in debt to China, obligated to them. Is the U.S. offering any alternative, looking at doing its own initiative to push back against China’s Belt and Road?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we never compete in some of the ways that they have chosen to intervene in some of these countries. We would never lend money to a country with the objective of foreclosing on that loan and gaining political power. It’s just – it’s not the nature of a democracy like ours, but we are out there now in ways competing. First, we’re making sure other countries know the risks connected to taking these deals. Make no mistake about it, some of the Chinese transactions, straight-up business deals, competing against the United States, and when that’s the case we welcome that competition. But where it’s not, we’ve got an obligation to tell those countries about the risks connected to what it is that those Chinese businesses are doing, their connections to the Chinese Government. We’re not looking to hold China back. We are looking to make sure that there’s freedom of navigation, fair, reciprocal trading regimes, rule of law existing all throughout the globe. We’re confident if we do that, America can be successful. And we believe that if China would do that, it can be successful as well.
QUESTION: Now in the case of the Chinese company Huawei, the President has chosen to take action and essentially start banning it in the United States. You talked with British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt about it recently. He said, however, that with respect to Huawei and 5G that they have not made a final decision as a government. Why are our allies like the UK and Germany dragging their feet on Huawei and the risk it poses?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, a couple have been ahead of us. The Australians actually were in front of us. We’ve now made our decision. Our mission at the State Department has been to make sure that no country misunderstands the risks connected to that. So our goal has been an educational one. It’s also been to inform them that America’s information, your information, your private information – if the United States Government has the capacity – we don’t want that on a network that we don’t trust. You don’t want it on one that you can’t trust. You don’t want your information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. And so we’ve shared with them that America will have to make decisions based on how these countries move forward if —
QUESTION: Would we leave the Five Eyes?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t even want to speculate about that, because I’m convinced those countries are going to get it right. I think they will ultimately come to see these risks and concerns the same was that President Trump and America does, and they’ll make good choices so that we’ll have trusted networks in Western democracies.
QUESTION: And the risk and concerns of the South China Sea, some senators – a bipartisan group – are producing possible sanctions in regards to that. But do you think we’re headed to military action there? Do you think it can be resolved before that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think it’ll get resolved. I think we’ve made clear in this administration, unlike the one that came before us, that there are things that are unacceptable. We’ve increased our capacity. We’ve – the previous administration talked about a pivot. I haven’t met anyone in Asia that believes there was a pivot from the previous administration. But today they can see we are more engaged. We’re there. We’re not only attending meetings but we’re acting. We’re active. Our military is active. They are doing freedom of navigation operations that we didn’t do before. Our diplomats are there, engaged in ways that they weren’t before. I’m confident that we can avoid that kind of conflict.
QUESTION: And then before we move away from China, I do want to touch on the human rights violations. The Communist Party is known for their persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. Do you support sanctions in regards to human rights violations on China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I try not to get out in front of the President when it comes to sanctions decisions, but I do believe it is unmistakable. It’s certainly the case that a lot of attention has been focused on the some-million Uighur Muslims that are being held in terrible conditions in Xinjiang, but it’s also true that China has a long history of denying freedom of conscience, freedom of religion inside of its country. That hasn’t gotten better, and we have an obligation, as we did in our Human Rights Report here at the State Department, to call that out.
QUESTION: The President, the State Department is also calling out Iran. A lot of news on that this week, possibly more troops headed to the Middle East. Are we headed to conflict there as well? The President said he doesn’t want war, but is it going to be avoidable?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the President doesn’t want war. I don’t want war. I don’t know anyone in the administration – I spoke to Secretary Shanahan this morning. None of us want that. But I think the Iranians need to understand, as President Trump said in a tweet, we will protect American interests. We understand that Iran has been the force for instability in the Middle East, whether you look to Lebanon or Syria or Yemen or Iraq. The list is long of places that it turns out that Iran is the malign actor there. We won’t let them get a nuclear weapon; we’re not going to let them continue to build out their missile program. And we are taking – engaged in a campaign, a diplomatic, economic campaign to prevent them from having resources to do that, and we’ve been very successful.
QUESTION: It seems like there’s been such an escalation so quickly in tensions with Iran over the last couple months. Is there new intelligence that they’re close to a nuclear weapon than we’ve previously thought? Is that what this is about?
SECRETARY POMPEO: These threats that we’ve seen over the past weeks have not been about their nuclear program. They’ve been about conventional efforts, using both Iranian forces and proxy forces in the region. So it hasn’t been about the nuclear program. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say – you talk about new threats and new – this is 40 years of terrorism. This is four decades of expeditionary Islamist revolutionary fervor with the consistent goal of the destruction of Israel and the United States of America.
We need to make sure that there aren’t another 40 years. And it’s right – it is true that when you push back, tensions rise. We came in when an administration had coddled Iran, had allowed them to have hundreds of millions of dollars, had allowed them to grow their terror networks and terror capacity. When you push back, it’s true, it’s not a straight line. We are confident that we have already disrupted some of the Iranian efforts, and Secretary Shanahan and I are going to continue to present the President with a full range of options so that we can keep Americans safe and hopefully deter any kind of conflict with Iran. That’s the mission set.
QUESTION: Great. I read that – we’re closing on our time, but I’d like to touch upon a personal story that I followed: the Asia Bibi story. The U.S. did a lot of work to get her out of Pakistan. Can you talk about how – a little more detail now about how that happened? How did you manage that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t say much, other than President Trump has made an enormous focus of protecting Christian minorities. Religious freedom is something that’s near and dear to me personally as well, but it’s certainly been one of President Trump’s agendas – agenda items. And so we have worked hard all across the world to get those who have been trying to practice their faith in they want to, who get into a jam, to make sure that they get a chance to get out of that. And so I was very pleased to see that result.
I wish I could say more. Perhaps another day. But it is – I appreciate the question, and the American people should know that there were not only the United States, but other countries who worked diligently to see her be able to leave Pakistan.
QUESTION: Yeah, there were a lot of people in America glad to see that, and proud to be a part of that.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It was a great outcome.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.