Pompeo : We strongly believe that the Chinese Communist Party did not report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely fashion to the World Health Organization.
Article 6 of the IHRs, which was a part of this reform, further mandates that a State Party – that would include China – “shall continue to communicate to WHO timely, accurate and sufficiently detailed public health information…” That is, there’s an ongoing obligation.
Even after the CCP did notify the WHO of the coronavirus outbreak, China didn’t share all of the information it had.
Instead, it covered up how dangerous the disease is. It didn’t report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month until it was in every province inside of China. It censored those who tried to warn the world, it ordered a halt to testing of new samples, and it destroyed existing samples.
The CCP still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease’s evolution.
Not making a legal determination here today on China’s adherence to the IHRs, but the World Health Organization’s regulatory arm clearly failed during this pandemic.
I’d also note that when countries adopted these new rules in 2007, we also gave the director-general of the WHO encouragement and the ability to go public when a member-country wasn’t following those rules, and that didn’t happen in this case either.
It’s why we continue to insist this is an ongoing requirement for transparency and openness according to the WHO rules, and the WHO has responsibility to continue to enforce them today. This transparency and getting it right is critical to saving lives today and in the future.
Move on to a couple final points. I want to highlight two ways in which the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the world’s focus on COVID-19 crisis by continuing its provocative behavior.
First, we commented on what’s taking place in Hong Kong, where amidst increased efforts by Beijing to erode autonomy, law enforcement authorities have arrested pro-democracy activists, including 81-year-old Martin Lee. We’ve always said that China has an obligation to live up to its promises, its obligation – as I was speaking about the virus earlier – to live up to the rules that it put in place and it signed off on. We’d ask them to continue to do that here.
You’ve also seen that the Chinese Communist Party is exerting military pressure on Taiwan and coercing its neighbors in the South China Sea, even going so far as to have – so far as to sink a Vietnamese fishing vessel.
The United States strongly opposes China’s bullying; we hope other nations will hold them to account, too. Tonight I’ll be on a phone call cochaired by myself and my Laotian counterpart with every ASEAN member.
Question:And on China, there are millions of PPE items stuck in China despite the fact they’ve been bought by U.S. companies. Do you believe the PPE is stuck because of red tape, China trying to make sure the quality is high, or because China is actually hoarding them and keeping them from the U.S.?
Pompeo: The good news is we have seen China provide those resources. Sometimes they’re from U.S. companies that are there in China, but we’ve had success. The Vice President and his team have talked about the air bridge that has delivered products to the American people from China, and we appreciate that. We are counting on China to continue to live up to its contractual obligations and international obligations to provide that assistance to us and to sell us those goods – often these are commercial transactions – in a way consistent with all of the international trade rules.
Question: How would you say that the Chinese behavior – this disinformation that you are talking about – what effect do you think that has on a long-term relationship with the U.S.? Do you think it will damage it significantly?
Pompeo: As for China, nations that desire to be part of the global landscape have obligations for truthful information – they have obligations to share and be transparent and open. That’s our expectation for every country. What I think – I think you were referring to was you called it disinformation. Seeking to transfer responsibility or to deny access to the world so that the world can figure out what’s going on – you have to remember, these labs are still open inside of China, these labs that contain complex pathogens that were being studied. It’s not just the Wuhan Institute of Virology. There are multiple labs inside of China that are handling these things. It’s important that those materials are being handled in a safe and secure way such that there isn’t accidental release.
We have an elaborate regime inside the United States to do that. Many countries do it as well. We have lots of regimes where – I’ll give you an example in the nuclear context, where the world inspects sites so that we can ensure that there’s proper handling. The United States spends a lot of money training others to help them handle nuclear materials in an appropriate way. We have to make sure that the Chinese Government is handling those materials in an appropriate way not only in the Wuhan Institute of Virology but elsewhere. So this is an ongoing obligation that the Chinese Government has as well as an ongoing obligation of the World Health Organization that has responsibility for compliance with the rules.
I hope I didn’t bore you with them, but they’re important to understand that there are a set of global regulations that the Chinese Communist Party signed up for. These aren’t American rules we apply, these are rules that the Chinese Government signed up for, and the World Health Organization has a continuing obligation – not just one from back in December but a continuing obligation to make sure that those rules are being complied with today in a way that protects us not only from the ongoing pandemic but a future one as well.