Remarks to the Press
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
PRESS BRIEFING ROOM
AUGUST 5, 2020
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good afternoon, everyone.
On behalf of the United States, I want to extend our deepest condolences to all those who were affected by the massive explosion at the port of Beirut yesterday. We stand ready to assist the Government of Lebanon and its – as it grapples with this horrible tragedy. You’ll see the United States announce a number of things we intend to do to assist the people of Lebanon in the coming days.
A quick logistical note: On Monday, I’ll leave for the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland – all great friends of America. It’ll be a very important and productive trip, I expect.
Now, turning to my remarks: I want to start, as I often do, with a few items on Communist China.
Since I was last here, the world has witnessed more examples of CCP efforts to coerce and control its citizens. Other nations and the U.S. have put out a number of statements.
We see it in Hong Kong, where authorities have delayed legislative elections, arrested pro-democracy activists, issued warrants for freedom-loving foreigners, including an American. I urge U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution while traveling to or in any place in China.
We see the CCP’s continuing ambition to control Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. And I commend the Treasury Department for using its Global Magnitsky authorities against human-rights violators there just this past week.
And we see, too, the CCP’s lawlessness elsewhere in the world. I issued a statement on Sunday about the Chinese-flagged vessels’ predatory fishing practices around the Galapagos Islands, which has alarmed our friends in Ecuador.
Look, these aren’t one-offs. As I said at the Nixon Library this month, freedom-loving nations must come together to confront the CCP’s aggressive behavior. And the good news is the tide is absolutely turning. The central idea of distrust and then verify, I think the world is coming to see as the right approach to responding to these challenges.
And we are working in this administration, the Trump administration, hard to protect Americans from those threats.
In April, I announced our team’s Clean Path initiative to keep Americans’ data safe from untrusted vendors. Today, I’m pleased to announce the expansion of the Clean Network with the launch of five new lines of effort. I’ll walk through them quickly.
First, Clean Carrier. We are working to ensure that untrusted Chinese telecom companies don’t provide international telecommunications services between the United States and foreign destinations.
I join Attorney General Barr, Secretary Esper, and Acting Secretary Wolf in urging the FCC to revoke and terminate the authorizations of China Telecom and three other companies providing services to and from the United States.
Second, we call Clean Store. We want to see untrusted Chinese apps removed from U.S. app stores. President Trump has mentioned impending action on TikTok, and for good reason. With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship.
Third, Clean Apps. We’re working to prevent Huawei and other untrusted vendors from pre-installing or making available for download the most popular U.S. apps. We don’t want companies to be complicit in Huawei’s human rights abuses or the CCP’s surveillance apparatus.
Fourth, Clean Cloud. We’re protecting Americans’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property – including COVID vaccine research – from being accessed on cloud-based systems run by companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom, and Tencent.
The State Department will work closely with Commerce and other agencies to limit the ability of Chinese cloud service providers to collect, to store, and to process vast amounts of data and sensitive information here in the United States.
Fifth and finally, Clean Cable. We’re working to ensure that the CCP can’t compromise information carried by the undersea cables that connect our country and others to the global internet.
Huawei Marine significantly underbids other companies on multiple procurements to connect Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and Europe using Chinese state-backed underseas technology.
We can’t allow that to continue. We call on all freedom-loving nations and companies to join the Clean Network.
The Trump administration’s work to secure our democracy continues in other ways as well:
The Department of State’s Global Engagement Center is releasing a special report today on Russian disinformation and propaganda, focusing especially on proxy sites.
Speaking of Russia and other malign actors:
The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the identification or location of any person who, acting at the direction or under the control of a foreign government, interferes with U.S. elections by engaging in certain criminal cyber activities.
A few comments on the Middle East:
We welcome the agreement between the Republic of Yemen Government and the Southern Transitional Council to advance the terms of the Riyadh Agreement, which will pave the way for a unified government that can counter Houthi aggression.
We urge all the parties to implement the agreement’s terms, and support the UN special envoy’s efforts to broker a country-wide political settlement.
Of course, the conflict in Yemen has raged in large part because of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s illegal arms transfers to the Houthis.
And so next week the United States will put forward a resolution in the Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran.
The Security Council’s mission is to maintain “international peace and security.”
The Council would make an absolute mockery of that mission if it allowed the number-one state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons freely.
The United States has conducted now a years-long diplomacy on this matter. We have a bipartisan consensus in Congress. We have a 13-year consensus on the Council. And the proposal we put forward is eminently reasonable.
One way or another – one way or another, we will do the right thing. We will ensure that the arms embargo is extended.
And staying on United Nations matters for just a moment, it’s outrageous that the Human Rights Council would offer to seat Cuba, a brutal dictatorship that traffic its own doctors under the guise of humanitarian missions. No country should vote Cuba onto the Council.
Two quick items on religious freedom:
First, on behalf of President Trump and the American people, I want to express our solidarity with the Yezidi people as we commemorate the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the ISIS genocide. Much has been done by our administration to help Iraqis recover, but much more work remains.
And on a brighter note, I commend the progress that Sudan is making to protect religious freedom in its country as the country transitions away from radical Islamist rule.
Last month, the civilian-led transitional government abolished apostasy as a crime – a solid step forward.
Our global efforts to – as I close – to fight the pandemic continue.
This week the State Department and USAID are releasing an incremental $53 million in new humanitarian and economic assistance to help vulnerable people and partners continue to fight this deadly virus, bringing our total to more than $1.6 billion.
We will also be launching a $10 million COVID-19 Private Sector Engagement and Partnership Fund to invest that $10 million in promising new products, markets, and ideas for mitigating the economic impacts of the pandemic.
And with that, I’m happy to take some questions.
MR BROWN: Okay. For our first question we’ll go to the phone lines. And if we can go to the line of Matt Lee, please.
QUESTION: Secretary, can you hear me?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Matt, I can barely hear you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There you go.
QUESTION: Let me take you off speaker and – how’s that? Better now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, much better, Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Thank you. Two real quick ones. One on Iran: You said that one way or the other – one way or another we will ensure the embargo gets extended. Does that mean that in the highly likely event that your resolution fails, you will move to invoke snapback? And secondly, on the acting (inaudible), are you concerned at all that his departure – and particularly after such a short time – will further sideline the work of the inspector general office? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Matt, let me try to take the second one; you broke up a little bit. You asked a question I think about the departure of acting IG Steve Akard. He left to go back home. This happens; I don’t have anything more to add to that.
As for Iran, we’ve made clear – and I don’t want to be too cute by half – our mission set is unambiguous. The President’s guidance is very, very clear: We’re not going to let the arms embargo expire on October 18th of this year. It’s one of the central failings of the JCPOA and a bad thing for the world to allow Iran to buy and sell – you’ve seen the comments in the press about a deal between Iran and China. There are nations lining up to sell weapons that will destabilize the Middle East, put Israel at risk, put Europe at risk, risk American lives as well. We’re not going to let it happen. And so we’re using every diplomatic tool we have in the toolkit.
I don’t want to – as I said, I don’t want to be too cute. We’re deeply aware that snapback is an option that’s available to the United States, and we’re going to do everything within America’s power to ensure that that arms embargo is extended. And I’m confident that we will be successful.
MR BROWN: Okay. Let’s go in the back to Kristina.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to send Secretary Azar to Taiwan, what the message is behind this trip? And as you probably know, the Chinese Communist Government says the visit endangers peace and stability, and it’s sending the wrong signals, and is urging for the trip not to proceed. What is your response to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I won’t say anything about the decision other than the cabinet members have traveled to Taiwan previously. This is consistent with policies of previous times. He’s going there with a deep and important purpose. We’re still in a global pandemic. He’s going to go there and talk about Taiwan has had some significant success in how they have handled this. We have wanted them to be part of the conversations at the World Health Assembly that – China has prevented that from happening. And so he’ll go there and talk to them about public health issues as they relate to how we all move forward with respect to how we handle COVID and the opportunity for therapeutics and a vaccine as we move forward. And we welcome the expertise that Taiwan brings to that and he’ll have, I think, important conversations with them about that.
MR BROWN: Last question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: So tomorrow and August 9th marks 75 years since the United States unleased the first atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So could you tell us your opinion on nuclear arms control, including the future of the New START Treaty between U.S. and Russia?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So President Trump, literally since I first met him, first in my role as CIA director and now as Secretary of State, has made clear one of his top priorities is ensuring that we don’t have a really bad day in the world as a result of a nuclear weapon being used, and so we have worked along multiple fronts. For example, we left the INF Treaty because the Russians weren’t complying with that and that was – that had the risk of being destabilizing, because when you have an arms control agreement and only one of the two parties is complying, you have created strategic risk.
But in the last handful of months, we’ve been working diligently to get the three nations that have the largest nuclear capabilities – the United States, Russia, and China – to have a strategic dialogue about how we move forward together to decrease the risk to the world that these massive weapons are used, and we’ve made progress with the Russians. We’ve had two good gatherings; I hope we’ll have one before too long. And we are hopeful that the Chinese will choose to participate. We think it’s in their best interest. We know it’s in the best interest of the world. And for nations that assert they want win-win solutions, that they want good outcomes, that they want to be a player on a global stage, they now have moved to a point where they need to, like the United States and Russia, be prepared to engage in conversations about how you create a strategic situation that reduces the risk that nuclear weapons will be used at any time or any place anywhere in the world.
I hope they’ll participate in that. We hope the Russians will urge them to participate in that and we hope the whole world will come to understand that it’s very important that those three nuclear powers with significant resources and capabilities will all come together to create a more robust, more stable strategic situation with respect to the risks not only of the use of nuclear weapons, but on their proliferation as well.
Great. Thank you, everyone. Have a great day. Thank you.