Pompeo Cites China, North Korea as Trump’s Unfinished Business

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Monday that he regrets the U.S. hadn’t made more progress in resolving “hard issues” with China or getting North Korea to shed its nuclear arsenal, while saying that the Trump administration has made the world a safer place than it was four years ago.

“The regret is that the big issues, the hard issues and the trade relationship between the United States and China have not been resolved,” Pompeo said of China in an interview for “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg Television. “That work remains to be done.”

Despite President Donald Trump’s tougher approach to China, Pompeo said, the two countries still have an unfair trading relationship and its theft of intellectual property remains a problem. On North Korea, he said leader Kim Jong Un “has not yet made the decision that he is actually prepared to execute” on a commitment to give up his nuclear weapons after two summits with Trump.

Even so, Pompeo said the U.S. had achieved a number of key goals under Trump, including a more realistic approach to Israel and Iran, a reorientation by NATO to confront China and building a coalition of countries against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Asked his plans for the future, Pompeo said he might return to Kansas and that he also wanted to offer a fuller accounting of his time as secretary of state, though he declined to say whether that would be through a book or another format. Since New Year’s Day, he’s been doing that on social media, with a torrent of tweets touting what he sees as the administration’s successes around the world.

“I want to make sure and tell the story that the Trump administration did, so I’ll find a way to do that,” Pompeo said. The Trump loyalist, who’s considered a potential presidential candidate for 2024, didn’t explicitly acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden will take office on Jan. 20 despite Trump’s unsupported claims of election fraud.

Iran’s Strategy

Pompeo also offered a warning, saying he believed that Iran was ramping up aggressive behavior with the goal of extracting concessions as Biden signals that he wants to return to the multinational nuclear deal that Trump abandoned in 2018.

“As they now think they may have a president coming in office who will do a deal again, they’re going to raise their level of activity to threaten and so that the Europeans and the United States will once again kowtow,” Pompeo told Rubenstein.

It was the Trump administration’s decision to quit the nuclear deal that Pompeo hailed as a major accomplishment, saying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action entered into by the Obama administration “was creating wealth and capacity for the kleptocrats and theocrats” in Iran.

As he’s done many times before, Pompeo also cited the administration’s more confrontational approach to China as a necessary change from more than four decades of U.S. policy. He accused Beijing of trying to exert control over shipping lanes in the South China Sea, of covering up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak early on and reneging on its 1997 pledge to let the former British colony of Hong Kong run its own affairs for 50 years.

“Everything that we have seen over the past year has indicated that Hong Kong is going to become nothing more than another Communist-run city,” he said.

Other issues the top diplomat touched on in the interview:

  • He said he believes more countries will join the Abraham Accords, the series of diplomatic agreements with Israel, including some in Asia. “I’m confident that there will be more,” he said. “It’s the direction of travel. It’s the direction of history.”
  • He declined to say whether the Trump administration will designate Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, though he said the U.S. was right to consider the issue. “The world knows Cuba’s evil hand in so many places,” he said.
  • He faulted the Palestinians for failing to take up Trump’s offer of a peace deal, saying they had “rejected even the willingness to start a conversation about a conversation about this.”
  • Pompeo said he had been vaccinated against the coronavirus and had never tested positive for it.

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