QUESTION: Joining me now exclusively is our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here tonight. Earlier this week, I said that the global community should demand that Tedros and his cronies resign in order to just get this behind everyone. What’s the state of play regarding our relationship right at this moment with the WHO?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Laura, thanks for having me on. First of all, as you said, the President has stopped all U.S. taxpayer funding for the World Health Organization. It’s completely appropriate given the recent history. But Laura, you’ve got a sophisticated set of viewers; they’ll remember this isn’t the first time that the World Health Organization has failed to do what it needs to do when a pandemic begins to break out. In fact, I am very worried that we’re still not getting it right.
So you recounted what happened in January and the delayed announcement about the pandemic, and the fact that China had asked them not to announce, and the World Health Organization didn’t do that. But even today, the Chinese Government hasn’t permitted American scientists to go into China, to go into not only the Wuhan lab but wherever it needs to go to learn about this virus, to learn about its origins.
Look, we know it began in Wuhan, but we need to figure this out. There’s an ongoing pandemic. We still don’t have the transparency and openness we need in China, and it is the World Health Organization’s responsibility to achieve that transparency. They’re not doing it; they need to be held accountable. And what’s been great is to see other countries around the world to begin to recognize the WHO’s failures as well.
QUESTION: And this is an opportunity, Mr. Secretary, for the United States to take a leadership role given the closeness that the WHO has with China, which spends a fraction of the money we’ve been sending to the WHO. So given all of this, given everything that’s happened, shouldn’t Tedros be called on to resign before we go forward at all in a relationship with the WHO?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think we’ve got to take a real hard look at the WHO and what we do coming out of this, Laura. We reformed this back in 2007, so this isn’t the first time we’ve had to deal with the shortcomings of this organization that sits inside the United Nations. We need a fix. We need a structural fix for the WHO.
QUESTION: If we’re talking about real accountability here, the guy who’s leading the organization, I don’t see how he can be part of the solution. So tonight, you’re not ruling out that not – that might be one of the requirements for going forward with the WHO? You’re not ruling it out?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I think that’s right, Laura. Even more than that, it may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting having U.S. taxpayer dollars go to the WHO. We may need to be – have even bolder change than that.
QUESTION: Right. Yeah, make our own organization. All right, Mr. Secretary, Senator Tom Cotton wrote a phenomenal piece in The Wall Street Journal yesterday saying that the U.S. Government is investigating whether COVID-19 came from a government lab in Wuhan: “Evidence is circumstantial, to be sure, but it all points toward the Wuhan labs.”
Well, China absolutely disavows any culpability from that lab, as does the chief scientist, world-renowned scientist who runs that lab. She said the same thing in interviews over the last week. Do you agree, though, that this is what the state of our information now is that this lab was the source of the virus that has done huge damage and loss of life in the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Laura, we don’t know precisely where it started. That’s the core problem. China kicked out journalists. When the United States, under President Trump, tried to get in to conduct the very investigation that needs to still be undertaken – it still hasn’t been done – when we tried to do that, the Chinese denied access not only to the lab but to the wet markets, to all of the places that one would need to go to identify the original source for this virus. We’re still trying to get that information. We’re still seeking transparency.
QUESTION: Your predecessor – I know you guys are texting pals, John Kerry – claims, Mr. Secretary, that we need to entangle ourselves even further with China going forward. Watch: “We have to work with China. You have to work with China on COVID-19, on all pandemics. You have to work with China on the security challenges of the region. You have to work with China on cyber and cyber warfare. And right now, I think the President is all over the place and even heading in the wrong direction.”
On cyber warfare, we have to work with China? Secretary Pompeo, we’re getting drones from China to spy on American citizens – some of our mayors and localities. But John Kerry says let’s keep it going.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not sure where to begin, Laura, other than to say that President Trump has taken a fundamentally different view with China than President Obama did and Secretary Kerry did, whether it was the unfair trade relationship the President is attempting to untangle, whether it’s being serious with China that says when you conduct cyber attacks against us we’re not going to tolerate that. And here, even in this, we’d love to find a way to cooperate with the Chinese, frankly, on all of those things. But it takes a partner who is willing to do that. And as you described, the biggest threat isn’t our ability to work with China on cyber; it’s to make sure that we have the resources available to protect ourselves from Chinese cyber attacks.
These are the kind of things that President Trump is taking seriously, and we have to make sure that we recognize the challenge that China presents to America and work with them where we can.
QUESTION: Well, I have to ask you in closing, Mr. Secretary, about a tweet from President Trump earlier today. He said, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Now, this came after Iran had successfully put into orbit what is called its first – I guess its first satellite, military satellite, hours before this tweet.
So where do things stand at this hour? Is – that’s a pretty serious threat coming from the United States, and what’s next?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is pretty serious. It’s a coincidence you asked that question, right, about talking about John Kerry. You’ll recall when, under the Obama administration with Secretary Kerry, they took 10 of our Navy sailors, and John Kerry apologized to get them back. This is a very different approach from our President. He takes seriously the obligation to protect our forces wherever they may be, in this case, on Naval ships in the Arabian Gulf. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we defend our folks and continue to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Laura, last thing to say, they launched this military satellite today. They had promised that their entire satellite program, their entire missile program, was civilian, and the person who oversaw this launch was General Hajizadeh. This is the same fellow whose forces shot down an aircraft, killing 176 innocent civilians, just a few weeks ago.
QUESTION: How comfortable are you dealing with Kim Jong-un’s sister, if for any period of time she becomes the leader of the country going forward, given the concerns that some are expressing about Kim Jong-un’s health right now, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I did have a chance to meet her a couple of times, but the challenge remains the same. The goal remains unchanged. Whoever is leading North Korea, we want them to give up their nuclear program, we want them to join the league of nations, and we want a brighter future for the North Korean people. But they’ve got to denuclearize, and we’ve got to do so in a way that we can verify. That’s true no matter who is leading North Korea.
QUESTION: All right, Mr. Secretary. Thanks so much for spending some time with us tonight. We really appreciate it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. Thank you, Laura.