So we have spent time not just at this ministerial in Warsaw last week where we had some real successes, but over the past months we’ve been out around the world just making sure everybody had the same information, that countries understand the risk of putting this Huawei technology into their IT systems. We can’t forget these systems were designed by – with the express work alongside the Chinese PLA, their military in China. They are creating a real risk for these countries and their systems, the security of their people. Europeans care deeply about their privacy. The risk to privacy from this technology is very, very real.
Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
New York City
February 21, 2019
QUESTION: Joining me right now is the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, it’s great to have you on the program.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, it’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for joining us. Can you give us any info in terms of where we are with China on this so-called memorandum of understanding that’s being drafted?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so progress made last week when the teams were negotiating in China. They’re now in Washington continuing to work. I think real progress, as you said, not just on the trade issues, which matter – that is, the goods exchange – but on intellectual property protection, forced technology transfer, and importantly, enforcement around those. It’s one thing to write something on a piece of paper; it’s another thing to have enforcement mechanisms. And I know our trade team is hard at work making sure that the American people get that.
QUESTION: And that’s really what I want to talk to you about, because we talk a lot about the trade and the tariffs issue. But the militarizing of the South China Sea, the intimidation from the Chinese on people with their ships – they are expanding their military more than any other military in the world today. I’d like you to assess what China does in terms of its behavior for us before I detail your trip to Poland last week, because it was so important.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Maria, thanks for this opportunity. Look, the Chinese behavior is aggressive along every dimension of international power. You just highlighted their military expansion, certainly geographic expansion into the South China Sea. And their technology, their weapons systems are getter better. They’re investing heavily in missile systems, space technology – all of those things that can project power beyond their own country.
But they’re also commercially engaged in predatory economic practices – expanding power, building influence through using cheap money, low-cost loans, and hooking countries on deals that will ultimately be bad for the people of those countries. And then we see this politically too. They are hard at work around the world trying to influence countries to think better of them in spite of the fact that often they show up with deals that aren’t good for the people of the countries with which they’re interacting.
QUESTION: Yeah. For example, I know that they’ve gone into Africa in a big way and basically said to a number of African countries we will build your telecom infrastructure. And of course, that opens them up to spying or tapping into that infrastructure. They’ve also done that in Europe. I know you have an incredible amount of knowledge about China from your days back in the day when you were on the House Intel Committee, and you were the first – you along with Devin Nunes and others – to launch the investigation into some of the practices.
You’re just back from Europe. And what we heard after your trip from Europe – there’s a lot to talk about your trip to Poland, because it was so important. But what we read in the Journal yesterday and a lot of the reports was that Europe is pushing back on this idea that President Trump and your administration wants to ban or potentially stop, slow down, the use of Huawei technology. Is that what you found in Europe?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we have spent time not just at this ministerial in Warsaw last week where we had some real successes, but over the past months we’ve been out around the world just making sure everybody had the same information, that countries understand the risk of putting this Huawei technology into their IT systems. We can’t forget these systems were designed by – with the express work alongside the Chinese PLA, their military in China. They are creating a real risk for these countries and their systems, the security of their people. Europeans care deeply about their privacy. The risk to privacy from this technology is very, very real. And we’re out sharing this information, the knowledge that America has gained through its vast network, and making sure countries understand the risk. That’s important. We think they’ll make good decisions when they understand that risk.
QUESTION: It’s not even just the risks for them. It’s the risks for the world. I mean, if you are in high-level talks about national security with Poland, with the Five Eyes, I mean, Americans’ information is out there too because China has tapped into their network.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s a second piece that we have shared with them as well, which is, if a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them. In some cases, there’s risk we won’t even be able to co-locate American resources, an American embassy or an American military outpost. There’s real risk, and we want to make sure they know not only the risk to their own people but their risk of being able to work alongside the United States in keeping the world safe.
QUESTION: This is an expensive proposition for some of these European countries. We know that because they’ve – already have Huawei technology embedded in there, right? I mean, is that the pushback? Because everything you’re saying is so obvious that, yeah, you’re at risk, we’re at risk, the world is at risk. Why the pushback?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So some of it is indeed commercial. Some of it’s just plain old economics. The system that shows up from Huawei is tantalizing. They offer really good economic deals to these countries, so it looks cheap. The truth is – Maria, you know this – to keep your people safe isn’t always cheap. Sometimes it costs money. Sometimes you have to buy a better product, a higher-quality product, a product that has more security embedded in it. The American people do this all the time for themselves, and we want to make sure that the world gets this one right. We will be with this new technology, this 5G technology, for quite a while, and it’s important that we get it right, the world get it right from a security perspective, at the outset.
QUESTION: Why is 5G so important? Give us the implications there. Because we’re on the doorstep here of hearing all of the stuff about faster networks, and we all want 5G. But we’re at a critical moment where China is going to be able to be in the lead in a number of these areas, so why should we worry so much about 5G and what China has been doing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we should worry, but I want you to know I’m confident when capitalism competes with state-owned enterprises, at the end of the day, I am confident that capitalism will prevail. It’s just important that we don’t have predatory practices that get in the way of free markets and voluntary exchanges on a level playing field, and that transparency is what we’re working to make sure we get around the world.
This technology, this 5G technology, is going to be a wonderful thing and a lot of data be transmitted in volumes and at speeds that make what we’re doing today – which, frankly, for someone of my generation feels pretty good – be in the distant past. It’s an important technology that’ll be ubiquitous around the world over some period of time, and we have to get this right at the outset.
QUESTION: Does China even admit to the cyber intrusions, for example? I mean, our computer networks – we’ve got thousands of attacks. Is it true – thousands of attacks a day?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, there are attacks not only from China certainly, but from Iran, from North Korea, from many countries around the world. Russians are engaged in activity too trying to get at not only governmental systems but private business systems. I ran a small business for a dozen-plus years before I came to Congress a few years back. These are real threats, and we need to be capable of protecting our information and our data.
QUESTION: So does China admit to the cyber intrusions? Do they admit to the theft of intellectual property? We had the former president of Microsoft on this program a couple months ago – Steve Ballmer – and he said that 90 percent of the companies in China use the Microsoft operating system, one percent pay for it. It cost Microsoft $10 billion a year in profit.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, this enormous transfer, this unlawful transfer of American wealth, American innovation and creativity that’s taken place over the last decades, is enormous. It’s historic. The Trump administration is determined to push back against it. We opened by talking about these trade agreements that are being worked on in Washington even as we speak. They will attempt to address this.
The Chinese need to acknowledge that this is taking place, need to put structural changes in place to prevent it from taking place, and then there needs to be an enforcement mechanism so that the whole world can know that these things aren’t continuing to happen.
QUESTION: How do we get to a point where we can trust that they will keep the promise? I mean, let’s say you do get an MOU and we get these agreements that, yeah, we’re going to move the needle on IP theft. Haven’t they made promises to us in the past that they haven’t kept?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, they certainly have. That’s absolutely the case. And our administration knows this. We won’t fall into those same pitfalls. They have made commitments on cyber, on other things, which they just simply have not honored. That’s why the enforcement mechanism. And if you talk to Ambassador Lighthizer or Secretary Mnuchin for even two minutes, they will tell you the heart of these discussions will surround enforcement mechanisms. And I hope that the Chinese will be prepared to permit those to take place. If they do, perhaps we can find a good, solid trade way to move forward.
QUESTION: I mean, the Chinese are going to have to – if they expect the world to use their telecom equipment —
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right.
QUESTION: — they’re going to have to prove to the world that we can trust them, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. Look, you can fool countries, you can fool people, for only so long. At the end of the day – and you start to see this in Malaysia, in Maldives, where countries are waking up to what happened to them, what Chinese predatory lending did to their country and their people. They find themselves with enormous debt which they’ll be trying to unpack for an awfully long time. Countries around the world in Asia, in Africa, in South and Central America are starting to see these risks. And if we do – if we do our job well, transparency and free markets will prevail, the information will be available, and countries – American companies, European countries will compete effectively all around the world.
QUESTION: If European countries continue to use Huawei and you know that there are openings for the Chinese to tap in, are you going to share less information with European friends?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to comment on any particular situation, but it goes as a matter of common sense, Maria. We’re not going to put American information at risk.
QUESTION: Let me go back to your trip to – from Poland for a moment, because you had a major meeting on the Iran threat. I was pretty stunned – 62 countries showing up. Netanyahu, Israel there with all of these Arab countries. Was there unanimous consent in terms of Iran, in terms of how to deal with Iran from all of the above?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, when you – when the Arab countries were asked point blank what’s the biggest threat to their people, to the people of Saudi Arabia, to the people of the Emirates, to the people of Bahrain – I could go on – it was very clear. It’s the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was a historic gathering – Arab states, the Israeli prime minister all together talking about how to keep their people safe, the region more stable. And of course, America has a deep interest in Middle East stability. It presents risk to us and to our ally, Israel, every day. And I am very hopeful that we can now continue to build on this and push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which for now 40 years has posed enormous threat to the region.
QUESTION: And you made a comment yesterday about the ISIS bride, Hoda Muthana – not a U.S. citizen, will not be allowed back into America. This was really important, and it hit on the heart strings of Americans after she left to go fight ISIS, wanted to kill Americans, and now says she’s sorry.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t get the heart strings deal. This is a woman who inflicted enormous risk on American soldiers, on American citizens. She is a terrorist. She’s not coming back. President Trump made clear that she wasn’t coming back. She is not a U.S. citizen, she is not entitled to U.S. citizenship, and she’s not coming back to our country to pose a threat.
QUESTION: Has the strategy changed in terms of pulling the troops out of Syria and Afghanistan even?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, the tactical decision the President made in Syria to take the 2,000 uniformed military personnel out of Syria remains. We’re now literally on the doorstep. We could be hours away from taking away the last square inch of ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, now liberated millions of people in Iraq and Syria. President Trump knows the threat from ISIS remains. It’s a global threat. We’re going to stay at it, but our tactics in Syria have changed.
QUESTION: Let me go back to Asia as we conclude, because you’ve got the North Korea summit next week. The President will meet with President Xu – Xi, rather, pardon me. And some of the comments that the President has made this week was – I was taken aback. He said look, a few things recently, I’m in no rush here, the summit will be like the last one, we’ll make some progress. Is he ratcheting down expectations?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I don’t think he’s ratcheting down expectations at all. You have to remember where we came into this. We came in when missiles were being tested, nuclear weapons were being tested. We haven’t had tests of either of those types of systems for well over a year now. We’ve had the return of remains of Americans. I have a team on the ground in Hanoi now. I had one in Pyongyang a couple weeks back. Real progress being made. And now the two leaders – goodness, a week or so from now, the 27th and 28th – will be together on the ground in Hanoi, and I hope we can make real progress, that Chairman Kim will begin to fulfill the commitment he made in June in Singapore of last year to denuclearize his own country.
QUESTION: I mean, what would be – what would be progress? I mean, you don’t expect that he’s going to denuclearize right away, right? Because aside from – we know that there haven’t been any missiles, we know that the President has moved the ball forward, you have moved the ball forward, but no denuclearization announcement.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, I remember I was a young soldier patrolling the East German border in 1989. No one anticipated that the wall would come down on the day that it came down. I am hopeful that the world gets a day like that here as well, where no one expects that North Korea will take this action. I think the work that we’ve done, the economic sanctions that have been in place, the negotiations that President Trump has led – I hope one day we all wake up and we get a moment just like the one that the world had in 1989.
QUESTION: And final question on China. How does that fit into all of this with the talks on China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We hope the Chinese will continue to play a constructive role. They have been helpful, and we appreciate that a great deal. The whole world has come together to put pressure on North Korea. We hope the Chinese will continue to do that and be a very constructive force for what would be a great thing for the people of America and the people of the world.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, thank you so much, ma’am.