SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Foreign Secretary Raab – Dominic – on your first visit to the United States in your new role. Great to have you with us. I enjoyed our first conversation today here in Washington, although we had already spoken a couple times before that.
As everyone knows, this relationship is truly special. I said that in a speech in London in May, at your beautiful Lancaster House, and it’s important for me to repeat it here today. There are British diplomats who enjoy the same the access to this building that American diplomats do. That’s special, unique, and I think that says a lot about the relationship.
Our two nations are twin pillars for the security of our people, for economic freedom, and for liberal values, the rule of law; all of the things that our two nations hold dear. This is something that the foreign secretary and I both share a passion for.
Based on my meetings today, I can tell you that our commitment to these time-honored principles is unchanging. My previous work with now-Prime Minister Johnson, I know confirms that the American people are sure that the Special Relationship will continue to thrive.
Dominic and I spent time today talking about a variety of issues. But before I get into that, I want to thank Britain, on behalf of President Trump and our Administration, for your decision to assist in the protection of the Strait of Hormuz and the freedom of navigation.
You’ve got centuries of maritime expertise under your belt, so you understand the importance of protecting international shipping from unprovoked attacks. This is a victory for meaningful, effective multilateralism.
We too want to thank the United Kingdom for your continued support of the Defeat ISIS campaign, and your diplomatic support for UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and your contributions to alleviate Iranian-caused suffering in Yemen. All of these activities help bring stability to war zones that Iran has been able to exploit. We hope that the United Kingdom will keep taking new steps to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran responsible for its rash of destructive behavior.
We talked a little bit about Brexit today. I’ll repeat just what I said when I was in the United Kingdom: We support the United Kingdom’s sovereign choice, however Brexit ultimately shakes out. And we’ll be on the doorstep – pen in hand – ready to sign a new free trade agreement at the earliest possible time.
Our enthusiasm – you’ve heard this from the President as well – points to an economic reality that I see everywhere that I go: The United States is the best partner for trade and investment in the world, as you’d say, “full stop.” Our dynamic system of free enterprise has produced enormous prosperity. And I know that the two countries will be able to continue to do that together.
We also talked about the key issues, including the United Kingdom’s decision – sovereign decision about who will build its 5G infrastructure. We hope that they will put in place criteria for vendors that uphold our shared values, and we are very confident that they will do so.
As you can see, there is a lot of work ahead for our two countries to tackle together, but I’m excited to tackle it alongside you, Dominic. On behalf of President Trump and the American people, thank you for visiting here today.
FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB: That’s great, thanks very much. Well, thank you, Secretary Pompeo for your hospitality and your welcome. I’m personally honored and delighted to be out here in Washington for my first official visit to the Administration so soon after my appointment. And I guess when we look at the historical perspective that you sketched out, the way we see it is that for the last seven decades, the alliance between the UK and the United States, from trade to security cooperation, has help shape the world for the better. And in defense, security, intelligence, our countries trust each other more deeply, we work together more closely than any others.
And we in the UK really prize that relationship. We value it enormously, and we really appreciate both from the Administration but also the personal remarks you and the President have made, the friendship that we have between the UK and the U.S. – it is something that we prize and we look forward to nurturing in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
As you mentioned, we’ve kind of had this Brexit issue – you may have noticed – preoccupying us in the UK. This government, this cabinet is absolutely resolved, determined to leave the EU by the end of October. We will stay good friends and good neighbors with our European partners, but we are at the same time determined to seize the global opportunities beyond Europe for the United Kingdom. And of course, America’s our single largest bilateral trading partner. President Trump has made clear, again, that he wants an ambitious free trade agreement with the UK. So I hope we can make that happen as soon as possible after we leave the EU on the 31st of October.
In our meeting today, Mike and I discussed a whole range of international issues. He’s mentioned them – Brexit and trade, security issues from Afghanistan and Syria, to the Strait of Hormuz. We talked about a range of other issues. And I look forward to working with you, Mike, on all of that range of issues. And you’re absolutely right to say we got to put a lot of hard work in on both sides to make further progress.
Thank you once again for your very warm welcome. I really appreciate it, and I’m confident that we can take the UK-U.S. relationship from strength to strength. Thanks very much.
MS ORTAGUS: We’re now going to take two questions from the press. We’ll start with Rich Edson.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hey, Rich.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Over the last couple of weeks, North Korea has launched a couple of missiles a couple times a week. Is this becoming an acceptable new normal in that situation? And the Pentagon inspector general says – thank you, sorry about that – the Pentagon inspector general says ISIS has “solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria this quarter.” In light of this, does the anti-ISIS coalition need to adjust strategy at all?
And Mr. Foreign Secretary, the United Kingdom says it wants to stay in the 2015 nuclear agreement. Iran says British actions with the United States have made it an untrustworthy negotiating partner. Are we seeing the United Kingdom gradually follow the United States out of the JCPOA? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, Rich, let me take your two questions. The first one is President Trump’s and this Administration’s strategy with respect to North Korea haven’t changed. Our effort is to achieve the full, final denuclearization of North Korea. We are hopeful that in the coming weeks we’ll get back to the negotiating table to achieve that. We watch the actions that they’re taking, the actions that are taking place inside of North Korea, and we are mindful that when we came in, there were – there was nuclear testing taking place. That has not occurred. There aren’t long-range missiles being fired. Those are both good things.
Now the task is for us to deliver on what the two leaders agreed to back in June of last year in Singapore. And we’re fully focused on that and we are planning for negotiations in a couple of weeks and we anticipate the two teams getting back together. We hope that they can achieve this, not just for the United States and North Korea, but for the entire world. This is an objective that I know Dominic shares, as do all of the other partners that I was with in ASEAN just this past week.
I haven’t seen the IG report on ISIS, but this administration is incredibly mindful of the success we’ve had versus ISIS and the challenge that it continues to present to the world. And President Trump has made clear from – in every time I’ve talked to him about it and every time I’ve seen him speak publicly, we understand that the threat from terrorism, more broadly than just ISIS, continues to exist in the world, and we’re doing – we’re doing all the right things, including building out a coalition like the defeat ISIS coalition with dozens and dozens of countries from all around the world to counter that wherever we find it. So I’m sure it’s the case that there’s pockets where they’ve become a little stronger. I can assure you there are places where it’s become weaker as well.
QUESTION: And these North Korea missile launches, do you feel as though it’s dampening the environment for discussions with North Korea?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No.
FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB: Well, thank you. On JCPOA, we continue to want to make the deal work, and more broadly, I would just say, de-escalate tensions so far as we can. But in the context of the maritime issue, it’s absolutely imperative to uphold freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, but also more generally. And on the issue of trust, this is a question of sticking to the rules-based international system. We’re all bound by those rules. It’s not an EU issue or a European issue. It’s not a U.S. issue. It is a global issue and about the basic norms of the international community.
MS ORTAGUS: Neil Connery.
QUESTION: Thank you. Foreign Secretary, how realistic do you think the chances are of meaningful negotiations with the European Union in the next few weeks? Do you agree that we have now reached a point where there is nothing that can stop a no-deal if it comes about?
And Secretary of State, as the U.S. Government is one of the guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, how concerned are you that we are now just a matter of weeks away from a potential no-deal Brexit given its impact for the whole of the island of Ireland? The chief constable of the police service of Northern Ireland says that a hard Brexit would be “absolutely detrimental” to the peace process. Is he wrong?
FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB: So first of all, there is a deal to be done. The prime minister has expressed that to our European partners. But I think if the EU’s position is that there can be no change to the withdrawal agreement, then that will be a choice that they’ve made, and that makes it very difficult to see how we can move the negotiations forward. But from the UK’s side, we will strive every sinew to find and secure a deal if it’s possible under terms that would be acceptable to the UK, and the prime minister’s talked about that a little bit.
And it also should be clear that in any no-deal scenario, we’ll do whatever it takes to avoid any hard border between the North and the Republic, and I would also point out that our view is that the withdrawal agreement, as currently configured, is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement itself. So that’s where we are right now, but of course in terms of Brexit, we’ve also got the wider issues of the opportunities, and that’s why I was out in ASEAN last week talking to a whole range of our Asia-Pacific and wider global partners, and why it’s a great pleasure to be here in D.C., but we were in Canada yesterday and in Mexico later on this week.
So there are also opportunities as well as those risks. So we will manage the risks, come what may. We will leave at the end of October and we’re determined to make a success of it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t have much to add to that in the sense of this is a sovereign decision made by sovereign nations, the United Kingdom and the nations of the EU. They’ll sort this out. As for the Good Friday Agreement, an important agreement, I am confident that whatever resolution is achieved, we’ll still be able to achieve the fundamental premises that were contained in that Good Friday Agreement. I am confident that whatever – whatever place the parties land that we’ll be successful at that.
Great. Thanks, everyone.
FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB: Good to see you.