U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had (more) harsh words for China on Wednesday, blaming recent deterioration in U.S./China relations on President Xi Jinping’s “unilateral aggression” on multiple policy fronts. Pompeo’s remarks before a remote meeting of the Economic Club of New York came one day after the U.K. government announced that it would not use technology from Chinese hardware maker Huawei in its 5G wireless network.
In an apparent departure from claims made earlier by U.S. President Donald Trump that his own personal intervention had been instrumental in the U.K. decision, Pompeo said the Huawei reversal did not come about because America had “browbeaten” them. Instead, he said, it occurred after “thorough analysis, some of which we were helpful in collecting and disseminating.”
Pompeo appeared keen to downplay speculation that late-blooming reticence among allies toward Chinese-made telecom hardware was due to U.S. lobbying, but rather to a broader, self-interested turn in sentiment among global liberal democracies.
He claimed the U.S. had engaged in a similar fashion with India, utilizing a full range of international partnerships “to assist them in making sure they had all the information” before “pulling” 50-plus Chinese applications on technology systems working inside of India.
Again in this case, Pompeo claimed, India’s decision came not from a desire to appease the U.S., but “because they could see the threat to the Indian people from the Chinese Communist Party.”
He also said the U.S. had been working with Brazil and Israel, in particular, on issues pertaining to China policy, because of their economic significance and“shared understanding [with the U.S.] of how nations ought to participate [in the world] and who want the Chinese government to participate with the same rules and reciprocity.”
Saying the Trump Administration was seeking only “fairness and reciprocity and security for the American people” in its dealings with China, Pompeo claimed that more American companies operating inside China were becoming uncomfortable with the political situation on the ground.
Facing what he termed the “poisoning” of their supply chains in China, Pompeo said U.S. and international companies would be making different decisions on capital allocation and supply chain issues.
South China Sea
Pompeo’s appearance before the Economic Club of New York comes amid spiraling tensions between the U.S. and China in recent weeks. Pompeo has openly referred to the Chinese Communist Party as “rogue actors” for Beijing’s recent crackdowns in Hong Kong, and accused China of breaking its promises not to militarize the South China Sea—which is rich in oil and gas—in contravention of the maritime legal rights of Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and neighboring countries.
Asked “what would happen” if Beijing showed a similar level of aggression in Taiwan, Pompeo was circumspect, saying that the question entered “the realm of the hypothetical,” but that the U.S. would continue to live up to its commitments, including those under the Taiwan Relations Act.
“This administration takes seriously its commitment to provide Taiwan with the tools it needs to provide their own security,” he said.
Pompeo’s appearance before the ECNY occurred just prior to a planned visit to Europe. The Secretary is first set to pay a call to his counterpart in the United Kingdom, then Denmark, where China policy will be among several key discussion items with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod. Much of the Danish visit will be concerned with Arctic foreign policy, with Greenland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Steen Lynge and Faeroe Islands Foreign Minister Jenis av Rana expected to join the talks.
While not a follow-up to President Trump’s offer in 2019 to Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen for the U.S. to “buy” Greenland (a former Danish colony), Pompeo said the opening of a consulate is part of the administration’s prioritization of issues in the Arctic region, and what he called a “militarization of the Arctic that China and Russia are currently presenting.”