QUESTION:  Joining me right now is the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.  Mr. Secretary, it’s great to have you this morning.  Thanks very much for calling in.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Maria, it’s great to be with you.  I hope you’re doing well today.

QUESTION:  And I appreciate that, and to you.  You have been so great in terms of educating our audience and the world about the bad behavior coming out of China.  You and I have spoken about this a number of times over the last couple of years.  But now we’re really zeroing in on the origins of this pandemic and this bad behavior in terms of while the Chinese Government, the Communist Party, was downplaying this, Mr. Secretary, they were actually cornering the market in terms of the protective gear that the U.S. would no doubt need a month later.  Is there something even more sinister than just bad behavior and bad actors in the Chinese Communist Government?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, Maria, I’m glad you put it in the larger context.  Look, the Trump administration is intensely focused on the problem in front of us, keeping America safe and, and as you saw yesterday, the President getting the economy back open, getting people back to work.  I was talking to some friends back in Kansas this weekend.  They are anxious to get back out there and get back to work.

But you put it in the larger context.  What this administration has consistently done with respect to the Chinese Communist Party is demand that it behave in a way that’s consistent with international norms.  You and I have talked about this.  General Secretary Xi told us he wouldn’t arm the South China Sea.  He did so.  They made commitments in Hong Kong, promises there.  We demand that they live up to those promises.

And now, in this moment, this authoritarian regime had information, had data.  It’s very clear now that the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization didn’t put that information out into the international space as they’re required to do in a timely fashion, and the result of that is that we now have this global pandemic.  We are still, Maria, suffering that today.  We are still asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get in to that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began.  It’s not political.  This is about science and epidemiology.  We need to understand what has taken place so that we can reduce risk to Americans in the days and weeks and months ahead and get the global economy back on track.  It’s very important.

QUESTION:  I know we’ve been saying that perhaps the virus got out of that virology lab by accident, but the fact that they have been downplaying it and lying for so long since the beginning of this, then it raises the question of was it really an accident.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It is completely appropriate that the world ask the right questions.  And this is the President’s frustration with the World Health Organization.  That is the institution with the task, underwritten in part by the American people and countries all around the world – it is their task to protect the world from precisely what is happening today.  And that means they need to get answers and data sets, and they need to demand that from the Chinese Communist Party, and the Chinese Communist Party needs to come clean about what took place there, so the whole world can see what took place.  When we do that, there’ll be a time for accountability.  We’ll be able to attribute what happened, who did what, and we can move on from what is now an incident that has destroyed so much wealth not only here in the United States but all across the world.

QUESTION:  And so many lives as well.  Mr. Secretary, you’ve talked to me about the Huawei situation over time, and the last time we were in the studio together talking about this, you remember Europe was pushing back, saying look, no, we’re going to keep our Huawei telecom infrastructure in place.  You said, well, if that’s the case, the U.S. will not able to share as much information.

Have you seen a change in sentiment as a result of what has taken place from China and the clear bad behavior?  Have you seen a change in sentiment from our friends in Europe or anywhere else? Are they maybe now rethinking the fact that you can’t trust the Chinese and maybe you don’t want the Huawei telecom infrastructure in their country since they have open doors with the data going back to the communist government?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Maria, your point is very well taken.  You talked about the loss of life.  What a tragedy has taken place.  We’ve all had friends who have been touched by this, families that have been impacted.  It’s a tragic loss of life here in the United States, around the world, and that loss of life around the world is continuing.

I raise that in the context that you asked.  We have been out – the Trump administration has been out telling the world about the threats that are posed from allowing the Chinese Communist Party to own the infrastructure – whether that’s Huawei or ZTE – own the communication infrastructure in your country.  I am very confident that at this moment, this moment where the Chinese Communist Party failed to be transparent and open and handle data in an appropriate way, will cause many, many countries to rethink what they were doing with respect to their telecom architecture, and when Huawei comes knocking to sell them equipment and hardware, that they will have a different prism through which to view that decision.

I’m hopeful that’s the case.  This is about security and making sure that U.S. data, Americans’ data, that travels across their networks is safe and secure as well.

QUESTION:  And what about businesses?  I mean, can you have a business relation – relationship with a partner who you – who continually changes the rules?  I reported on Monday they changed the rules in terms of export of the protective gear.  How do we get business leaders to better understand the national security risks, those business people and investors who just want to go in there and sell their products to 1.4 billion people?  What will happen to companies that are aligned with China?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Two things.  I think this has been a real moment for business leaders all across America to see the political risk associated with operations inside of China.  You know this, Maria; you’ve been around a lot of these people.  They can deal with commercial risk, they can deal with all kinds of – political risk is enormously difficult to deal with, and now we’ve ripped the band-aid off the political risk connected to that.

Second, the United States Government has a responsibility, too.  We need to make sure the supply chains for the products that matter for American national security and keeping people safe are no longer dependent on any single country, and we have a responsibility to get that right.  That’s the governmental function, and I hope every business leader around the world will take a look at what’s transpired over these past weeks and make good decisions for their company about whether they’re prepared to deal with the political risk of continuing to operate from China.

QUESTION:  What do you think about Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw’s idea of putting a bill forward that allow Americans to sue China in federal court over damages, for death, injury, and economic harm caused by COVID-19?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’m conflicted here, Tom Cotton is one of my best friends in the whole world, so I’ll say this:  There’ll be a time to make sure that we develop the mechanisms to hold those responsible for the loss of American life and loss of all the economic opportunities for our kids and grandkids that may flow from this if we can’t get this back open pretty fast.  We’ll get that right at the right time.  Members of Congress will do what they’ll do.  We’ll figure our way through this.  We’re very focused on the immediate.

QUESTION:  All right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’re very focused on making sure that we get this economy cranked back up again.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, as you go, do you want to say anything about the fact that the U.S. and Canada have sent money to this Wuhan virology lab, apparently?  Why were we supporting this lab in the first place?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t want to comment on that, other than to say this:  The United States, along with other entities across the world, have worked wherever there were high-end labs handling complex scientific matters that could potentially present risk, in the same way we do work around the world to keep nuclear weapons safe.  So when other countries are developing nuclear energy, we try to help them with good technology, with state-of-the-art knowledge.  We’ve done that same thing with BSL level 4s, the high-end level 4 laboratories all across the world.  We’ve used American know-how, often from our academic institutions, to make sure that —

QUESTION:  I see.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  — those around the world were handling this information in the right way.  Those are the kind of projects we’ve been engaged in, trying to help make sure that the technical know-how was available in those labs.  And clearly, we need to investigate whether that took place here, whether they had the capability to handle the kinds of viruses that were being studied or worked on in that laboratory.  We don’t know those answers.  The Chinese Communist Party needs to open up and let us get those answers.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I know how busy you are.  We so appreciate you spending the time with us this morning.  Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Maria, thank you.  Have a great day, ma’am.

QUESTION:  And to you.

 

U.S. Department of State

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