Secretary of State Pompeo With President of the Economic Club of Washington about China

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MR RUBENSTEIN:  So what are the most significant foreign policy issues of concern to you?  What do you think are the biggest challenges we have in our country right now in the foreign policy area?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I get asked this question about sort of rank ordering the challenges.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  You mean that’s not an original question?  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I mean, so look, it’s an important  question.  It’s about priorities and resources and how do you allocate time, and how do you think about the problem set.  For me, the first task when I came in now, goodness, 16, 17 months ago to the State Department after having been the CIA director was to make sure the State Department was ready in the moment of crisis.  So I spent a lot of time making sure that my team was prepared for the day that every CEO tries to deal with too, right – what happens when something really bad happens that was unexpected, and is your team capable, do you have the resources and people that can respond in the moment for something that frankly you hadn’t given enough thought about?

In terms of priorities, every morning the first thing I do is read about China.  So I take time and talk about all the broad array of issues that present both real opportunity for the United States and risk to America from China.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Well, let’s talk about China for a moment.  The trade negotiations are going on.  You’re not the lead in the trade negotiation.  I think Bob Lighthizer is taking the lead in that.  But can you make any progress in non-trade issues until the trade is resolved?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  And we’ve made some.  We’ve had other places where we’ve gone backwards.  The Chinese have frankly been very helpful on North Korea.  So they have done more to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions on  North Korea than ever at any time in history.

They’re helpful with us today in Afghanistan and the project there too.  It’s something folks don’t spend a lot of time thinking about.

So far so good with respect to respecting our sanctions enforcement on the Islamic Republic of Iran, although we sanctioned a Chinese company last week, or perhaps it was the week before, for having violated those sanctions.  But so there are places we can work with China.

There are lots of diplomatic fronts where we have – we don’t share the same values, but we have overlapping interests and we work on those problems.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  What would be the U.S. response if the Chinese were to send military into Hong Kong to put down the protests there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, so I never answer hypotheticals about what we will do or won’t do.  So well played.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Well, I thought I’d get – all right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:    Having said that, look, we’ve been pretty clear: protest is appropriate.  We see this in the United States.  I am confident there will be protestors when I drive through the building at the State Department today.  And we hope the Chinese will do the right thing with respect to respecting the agreements that are in place with respect to Hong Kong.

U.S. Department of State
Washington D.C.

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