Channel 1 Los Angeles
5/24/2020 Washington, D.C.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, welcome to Outsiders. You said the other day that the whole world is now waking up to the degree to which Beijing is ideologically and politically hostile to free nations such as ours. Has the coronavirus unwittingly exposed the real face of Chinese communism?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, thanks for having me on, and that’s a – I think that’s a central question. My comments the other day reflected what has been decades of Western tolerance of behaviors that we don’t accept from anyplace else, and the nature of the Chinese Communist Party now, I think, has become clear as a result of this coronavirus. Those of us who have been watching this had been talking about this risk to the world. We know the nature of authoritarian regimes. We know what happens when there’s not freedom, when journalists can’t speak, when you can’t have open debate.
And then we’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party also expand its desire to have hegemonic influence around the world, whether that’s through the Belt and Road Initiative or other efforts to use government state-sponsored enterprises to achieve political and defense and security outcomes.
Those are the things I think the world could see. It saw that the reflexes to cover up, to hide, not to protect and secure and keep safe – those are the kind of things that authoritarian regimes do by nature, and it’s what happened to the world as a result of the coronavirus. And I think countries all across the globe can see that now.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, in late January, the World Health Organization was claiming there was no serious risk, no human-to-human transmission of the virus, but at the very same time, sir, the Chinese Government was sending employees of major Chinese firms here in Australia and elsewhere out to empty our shelves of surgical masks and essential medical supplies, sending tons – tons of critical equipment back to China. What should this tell us about both the World Health Organization and about China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, President Trump has made clear that as we observe the actions of both the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization from at least December through February of this year, they both tried to cover up what was going on. They knew it; they had information. They knew there was this risk. We saw them close down Hubei province but leave open flights to Milan and flights to Tehran – places both greatly impacted – flights to places like New York City, I’m sure Australia as well.
That’s the – that’s not the nature of what good governments do. What governments who are trying to protect and defend and secure do is they would alert the world. They would bring in the world’s best experts to help them resolve the problem. They would make sure that the entire world had access to the virus samples, access to the laboratories, all the things that would be needed to keep people safe, and they chose not to do that and created enormous risk.
And you talk about other activities that were going on. It’s also the case that during that same time, the Chinese Communist Party was behaving in ways that protected the people there in China.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, in your superb speech here in Sydney last year, you quipped that you can sell you soul for a pile of soybeans. The Victoria Labor state government in Australia is in the middle of signing up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative to the tune of potentially billions of dollars despite our federal government’s security concerns. The equivalent, I guess, would be if New York signed up to Belt and Road.
Two things: As our most important ally, what concerns does this raise for the U.S. and Five Eyes about Australia? And what specific dangers and threats are the Victoria Labor Party exposing Victorians to?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, let me take the second one first. Look, every nation has its own sovereign right to make decisions for itself, and I suppose Victoria has some rights that it can undertake.
But every citizen of Australia should know that every one of those Belt and Road projects needs to be looked at incredibly closely. It’s the case that some of them may just be straight up commercial transactions, could be that that’s the case. If so, fine, but nearly each one of them has some cost to it. There’s often money loaned at concessional rates or conditions placed in the debt documents or government concessions that have to be made to the Chinese Communist Party in order to get those Belt and Road Initiative projects built. Those present real risk – real risk to the people in that region, real risk to your country – and frankly, they build up the capacity of the Chinese Communist Party to do harm in other ways as well.
Second, as it relates to the United States and how we think about this, we’re doing the right thing to defend and keep America safe and work alongside great partners like Australia to do so. But we will not take any risk to our telecommunications infrastructure, any risk to the national security elements of what we need to do with our Five Eyes partners. We’re going to protect and preserve the security of those institutions.
So I don’t know the nature of those projects precisely, but to the extent they have an adverse impact on our ability to protect telecommunications from our private citizens or security networks for our defense and intelligence communities, we will simply disconnect. We will simply separate. We’re going to preserve trusted networks for important information. We hope our friends and partners and allies across the world, especially our Five Eyes partners like Australia, will do the same.