QUESTION: All right, as promised, we have the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with us right now. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on.
QUESTION: A lot going on right now. China obviously the big focus from the international relations standpoint. There’s a piece in The Washington Post that says, “China wasn’t wild about Pompeo before the virus. It’s really gunning for him now.” And then it seems to list a bunch of state media propaganda directed at you as if you’ve somehow upset them. Mr. Secretary, what have you done to get the ire of the Chinese Communist Party?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, what we’ve tried to do, what Trump administration has tried to do is just very simple: We’ve tried to get China to deal with us in a way that is fair and reciprocal. We saw it most clearly at the front of the administration on trade, but we’ve done the same thing diplomatically, the same thing militarily, and then we’ve had this moment, this moment where this virus began in Wuhan, China. And in spite of President Trump’s best efforts, my best efforts, we’ve not been able to get our experts in to figure out what actually happened here.
We have – we of course have two goals in that, right, Buck. We have the goal of figuring out what happened here, how did this go down, why did it get out, how did it spread all throughout the world, causing now more than 50,000 losses of life in America, a couple hundred thousand all across the world. But – so we need responsibility and accountability for this outbreak, but it’s really important, Buck, we have to understand what happened to make sure something like this can’t happen again. And so there are multiple labs inside of China and our understanding of what takes place there is pretty limited, and there have been examples of leaks from those labs before, and we’ve got to – this has been expensive, costly, a calamity around the world. And we need to do our part and there is responsibility on the part of the Chinese Communist Party to make sure something like this can never happen again.
I don’t know as to why they keep saying these things about me. This isn’t personal. This is about protecting the American people and we’ll keep doing it.
QUESTION: And what is the response you get from your Chinese counterparts in the Foreign Ministry when you say we just want greater access and transparency about something that is obviously affecting the United States and the whole world? Do they have a reason, a rationale for why we shouldn’t get the access that we want?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’ve seen the statements they have made publicly. They’ve claimed that they have been transparent, but of course, at least as of a day or two ago, we still didn’t actually have a sample of the virus. We were still working to try to understand what the scope of the risk was. Answers about where this came from – they claimed they didn’t know, and then in fact those inside of China who have tried to talk about this, some of the people who have reported on it or those who have – doctors who tried to talk about this back in January or earlier this year – were denied access, were told don’t talk about that, stop it. They banned discussions of this early on.
That’s not the way partners work, reliable partners work. Reliable partners share. They open up, especially when there’s trouble. They go overboard to make sure everybody can understand how it came to be. That’s all we’ve asked for. We hope that the Chinese Communist Party will see their way clear to allow the world to understand how the heck this virus got out of Wuhan, China and spread all across the world.
QUESTION: We’re speaking to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you: What about accountability? There’s already been some discussion of possible lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party. How that goes, how far they go remains to be seen, but down the line, could you foresee a situation where, if in fact it is proven that China acted irresponsibly to cover this up, once we’ve gotten past obviously the most important thing right now, dealing with the virus, will there be accountability for the Chinese Communist Party?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We – Buck, we’ve been focused on the here and now, trying to keep Americans safe and healthy as best we can and to get this economy cranked back up again so people can get back to work, get out of their places that they’re sheltering today. So that’s been the predominant mission set we’ve had with respect to the virus, but there will come a time when we need to make sure that we understand what happened here and those responsible – those who took actions that prevented earlier notice, those who took actions that allowed this virus to spread – we’ve seen the narrative which is that this virus began and the Chinese Communist Party knew about it, didn’t alert the world to it in a timely fashion. The President’s talked about this. As we continue to investigate and we learn precisely what happened – I am confident that the whole world wants to know the answer to this because the world has a right to know what happened and then ultimately hold those persons or those nations who engaged in this activity that harmed the world – to find a mechanism to hold them accountable.
As you said, there’ve already been some lawsuits filed in the United States. I don’t know what precisely the right mechanism is and what the President will ultimately choose, but we will present him a set of options once we know all the facts that hold those persons responsible for this accountable.
QUESTION: And in Hong Kong, there’s been an additional crackdown from the Chinese Government. I know that’s gotten some focus from you recently. Are they essentially trying to use the shroud of everyone dealing with this virus to get away with more repressive measures, and what can the U.S. – we have our hands full, obviously, with the virus, but to the degree that we can, are we able to push back a bit on the crackdown in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve made clear since early last year when we first started to see some of this activity in Hong Kong that our ask of the Chinese Communist Party was the same one that we make with respect to this virus: Show us what you’re doing. You made a set of promises back in 1947. You made a set of promises about one country and two systems. Live up to those international commitments. If you do those things, Hong Kong can continue to be the thriving place that those who’ve had a chance to travel there know. It’s a big financial hub. It’s a place that has a different system inside of China, but they have obligations. They have duties, promises not that we made or not that the British made, but that the Chinese Communist Party made, and we ask them to live up to them. That’s what I said last week when we saw some of the actions that they were taking or at least contemplating taking, and it’s what we continue to try and hold them accountable for. They have to live up to their international commitments. The world is watching these things and it’s not hard to do. They ought to just simply do it.
QUESTION: We’re speaking with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, you and Senator Elizabeth Warren – former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren – you had a bit of an exchange on Twitter. You told her that she “should review the law again – our rights under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 are separate from [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] the JCPOA. But I’ll put you down for Chinese arms sales to Iran on October 18th. Which weapons is it okay with you if they send? A couple of divisions of VT-4 tanks good?”
Mr. Secretary, just tell me this: What is this dispute about and what are you saying and what is Elizabeth Warren’s position?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, President Trump came in knowing that the Iran nuclear deal was a disaster and got out of it in May of 2018. One of the reasons it was such a wreck was that most of the major provisions weren’t permanent. They began to expire. The first of such provisions expires in October of this year, just – Buck, just a handful of months away. Excuse me. So we’re going to use every tool we have in our diplomatic kit bag to ensure that come October of this year the Chinese can’t sell tanks, the Russians can’t sell armaments. All conventional arms sales that this provision prohibits today will expire and they’ll be – the world’s largest state sponsor of terror in Iran will be able to purchase those weapon systems.
And so we had a little bit of fun, but when Senator Warren said goodness gracious, you can’t use the JCPOA – we’re not doing that. The United States has an unambiguous right at the UN Security Council to keep these restrictions in place, and President Trump has made clear we’re going to make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon and we’re going to deny them access to weapon systems to the maximum extent feasible.
QUESTION: I think given all the tough these days for – Secretary, before we let you go, I just wanted to ask: What are some of the things that are going on at the international level when it comes to our allies and partners trying to help us deal with this, whether it’s information sharing between scientists, between doctors and medical researchers around the world? Just is there anything you can speak to with regard to how our allies are coming through for us?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, that’s a great question. We have had some friends do some great things. First, we had tens of thousands of Americans stranded all across the world. Some of our friends have been fantastic in helping the State Department get now over 75,000 people back who had travel plans or they were on a mission trip and got stuck overseas and planes stopped moving, and we were able to get them home. So that’s been heartening to watch these other countries help us do that as well in difficult conditions with the virus.
But as for the work being done on the virus itself, there is a global campaign of countries that have really talented epidemiologists, scientists, people who know chemistry working to find therapeutics and vaccines. You see the list of all of those that are in process. I’m very confident that we will find a good answer before too long and it will be a global solution, one that I know America will play a significant part in moving forward.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, always appreciate your time, sir. Thanks again.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, thank you, sir. Have a good day.