QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us this morning to talk about a lot of different hotspots around the world. Good morning, Secretary. How are you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Nora, it’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: First, let’s talk about Mar-a-Lago. A Chinese woman goes into the President’s private club, she’s got four cell phones, she’s got malware. Is this an act of espionage?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I can’t talk about the details of the incident. There’s an active investigation taking place. But I think this tells the American people the threat that China poses, the efforts that they’re making here inside the United States not only against government officials, but more broadly. It’s one of the topics that’s being discussed in these trade negotiations. The theft of American intellectual property is a big business to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and President Trump is determined to push back against it.
QUESTION: You mean China stealing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of property from us, Americans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right, intellectual property. That is, they come in, take it through software. Companies that do business in China, they just flat-out steal it. It’s been going on for decades. The first president to actually take it seriously is President Trump, and Secretary Mnuchin and Ambassador Lighthizer are doing their best to get an enforcement mechanism so this will stop.
QUESTION: And is the woman who was arrested in Mar-a-Lago connected to that effort?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t say anything about that particular incident.
QUESTION: But it’s being looked at closely?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: How are we fighting back against that Chinese threat? Because you’ve described it as a threat to our democracy from the Chinese.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It very much is. They very much want to undermine our Western values, the rule of law, transparency. All the things that we hold most dear, China has a different value set. Look, they’re an important trading partner. We have – in Kansas, we sold a lot of products into China. We want that; President Trump wants that too. But we have to change the relationship in a way that it is fair, that it’s reciprocal, that they’re not stealing our stuff, and push back against them, whether the threat is in the South China Sea, the threat is to our intellectual property, or the threat is of their espionage here inside the United States.
QUESTION: This week, the 70th anniversary of NATO, probably the most important alliance in the world. And I know you addressed a number of the ministers and warned about this Chinese threat, as well as Russian aggression – the latest Russian aggression, of course, in Venezuela. When is there going to be a resolution to that situation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it was great to have all of the foreign ministers from now 29 nations that make up NATO. It was an important meeting to both celebrate 70 years of success, but to take the mantle from the founders. The threats have changed. I was a young soldier patrolling the then-East German border. The threat from Russia today is different. The threats to NATO from China today are fundamentally different. And that’s what we spoke about.
As for Venezuela, this administration is engaged in helping the Venezuelan people restore democracy. This is something they’re demanding, it’s something countries in Latin America —
QUESTION: Will you go there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to head to the region before too long. I’m going to go visit some of the great partners and allies that the State Department has built out who are each as determined as we are to restore democracy there.
QUESTION: I want to turn now to North Korea because you have been heavily involved in this. You’ve met more with Kim Jong-un, the leader, than just about anybody else. President Trump’s second summit with the North Korean leader failed to produce an agreement to declare and denuclearize their nuclear weapons. Will there be a third summit with North Korea?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m confident there will be.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t know.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope so. Look, we came out of Hanoi with a deeper understanding of each other, the positions that the two sides had. The two leaders were able to make progress in that respect. We didn’t get as far as the world is demanding. These are global sanctions that are on North Korea today.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s a negotiation, and we’ve always known this was going to take a while, so I don’t know that I was disappointed. You always hope you’ll make progress faster, better. You know that in every interaction you have. We’re determined; I’m convinced the North Koreans are determined as well. Chairman Kim has promised me, he’s promised President Trump he will denuclearize. Now it’s the mission of my team to make sure that that happens.
QUESTION: And so this is really going to come to a head next week, again, because the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is coming to the White House to meet with President Trump and you. Will you agree to some easing of economic sanctions to continue the momentum on these talks with the North Koreans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump has been unambiguous. Our administration’s policy is incredibly clear: Economic sanctions, United Nations Security Council sanctions, will not be lifted until we achieve the ultimate objective that we set out now almost two years ago.
QUESTION: So it’s my understanding that the South Koreans are really pushing the U.S. to try and open some of these economic sanctions – the Kaesong manufacturing park, the reopening of tourism in North Korea – they want to continue this. You’re saying the U.S. is going to say, no, we’re not going there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I talk to my South Korean counterpart a lot. She’s a delightful, capable minister for their country. They’re neighbors with the North Koreans. Many North – South Koreans have family members there. I understand the sentiment, but they’ve been great partners, and we have worked closely together to enforce these sanctions. We appreciate what they’re doing.
QUESTION: And just to give the context of why I’m asking that question is because it’s my understanding the South Koreans are pushing for that because the diplomatic channels have gone cold. Have the diplomatic channels gone cold?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Nope.
QUESTION: They’re still open?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: With the North Koreans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Between the U.S. and the North?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: And the South and the North?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Those diplomatic – okay.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, we have had conversations after Hanoi about how to move forward.
QUESTION: And again, the significance of next week, April 11th, the day that the South Korean president will meet with President Trump, it’s a big day in North Korea —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — is my understanding, that Kim Jong-un is going to give a big speech there. What are you watching from in that speech? Are we expecting some sort of surprise out of North Korea next week?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is a big day. It’s something that’s an annual event where the leader of North Korea speaks to his people. We’ll watch very closely what he says. I don’t expect there’ll be great surprise, but I do hope that he will share his sentiment, his sentiment that says: We – I believe, as the leader of North Korea, I believe the right thing to do is for us to engage with the United States to denuclearize our country, and that we’ll have a brighter future for the North Korean people.
We hope that’s what he’ll talk about with his people, and we’ll be watching it very closely.
QUESTION: I want to talk really quickly about Saudi Arabia. It has been six months since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. This week, we saw the first pictures also out of Riyadh of what is Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor. It’s close to completion. Is the U.S. going to allow Saudi Arabia to become a nuclear power?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have worked closely with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the now two years of this administration on this very issue. I can’t tell you where the negotiations sit because they’re still ongoing, but make no mistake about it: We only wish that the previous administration had taken that threat seriously with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran. They cut a deal that puts Iran on a path towards nuclear weapons. We will not permit —
QUESTION: So that makes it okay now for Saudi Arabia to have nuclear power?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We will not permit – we will not permit that to happen. We will not permit that to happen anywhere in the world. The President understands the threat of proliferation. We will never write a $150 million check to the Saudis and hand them over the capacity to threaten Israel and the United States with nuclear weapons, never.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.