Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo With Vassy Kapelos of CBC Power and Politics
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Vassy, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on the show.
QUESTION: I appreciate it. You said that the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Kovrig.
QUESTION: — is unlawful; you called it wrong. You’ve said that for a number of months now. China, of course, has not released them. Do you think that China will release those two individuals?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope so. It’s the right thing to do. It’s always the case that what we ask of every country is just to honor their commitments. China talks about their commitment to rule of law, to the Vienna Convention, all the core principles that nations that are engaged in the international community properly do. We hope in this case they’ll do the same. And more importantly than my prediction is the effort that we’ll continue to make to say that this issue doesn’t go away and that we bring every bit of diplomatic effort to this cause on behalf of these two Canadian citizens.
QUESTION: Has there been any reason, based on the responses given to that effort so far, to have that kind of optimism? I’m asking specifically because you said that President Trump, for example, raised the issue with President Xi. What was the response like? Has there been any sort of willingness on the side of the Chinese, from what you’ve seen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we’ve not been successful so far, and more importantly, we haven’t gotten these two back to their homes and to their families. That’s the mission set. I don’t want to characterize precisely how the Chinese have responded, but we know that the response that’s needed has not been achieved yet.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the response to President Trump’s ask was?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’d rather not talk about their conversations. The President said publicly that he’d done this, that he’d engaged in that conversation, so I’m comfortable sharing that. Beyond that, I’d just prefer not to go.
QUESTION: China has said that the only way this ends is if Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou is released. You spoke about that a few minutes ago, too. You see it as a very separate issue. You said, in fact, that it’s a – the case against her is legally straightforward or the extradition request is legally straightforward, and what China is saying is something completely different. President Trump, though, has tied the two together in the past. He said – he told Reuters last year, “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.” Is that off the table?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve been pretty clear with respect to the way we process and ask other countries with respect to extradition. I expect this case will be no different from that. Attorney General Barr and the Justice Department team have a process by which they evaluate anytime they ask for this extradition, which is a big lift oftentimes; certainly in this case it is as well. We – they were thoughtful in their request and they’ll continue to accord with American law and international law in the way that they proceed there. I’m very confident of that.
QUESTION: Was the President wrong, though, to link the two? Because in essence, he did link the charges leveled against Meng Wanzhou with the extradition process here in Canada. Was he not kind of undermining the argument being made by yourself and your Canadian counterpart that this is about the rule of law?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Remember, what – the question that you referred to that I took earlier today had to do with connecting up these two improperly detained Canadian citizens with a lawful process – promises, commitments that were made that the United States continues to honor and China has chosen not to honor its commitments. Those are the things we’re focused on. They’re the outcomes that we seek in each of those two cases. But when I hear them connected, even when it’s in a question, I find it disturbing, because the Chinese want to show that these are connected, when in fact, there’s no moral theory under which these two are connected.
QUESTION: I just want to be clear, though, for the Canadians who are watching, that there’s no way in which Meng Wanzhou’s case becomes a part of a trade deal with China. Is that what you’re saying?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve answered six questions. I think I’ve answered all of your questions.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me move on, because I want to ask you about Iran. Has there been a formal request from your government or from yourself for Canada to participate in the naval patrolling of Strait of Hormuz?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I want every nation that depends on freedom of navigation, not only freedom of navigation in this particular body of water but freedom of navigation all around the world – we all trade; we all have commerce. We invited Canada and dozens and dozens of other nations to participate in information-sharing effort around this Operation Sentinel. We want them all to participate, and so we’ve asked them, each one, to say, “What can you contribute? What are you prepared to do? How can you help?” This fundamental idea of waterways being open for free and fair navigation is central to economic success for both the United States and Canada and all of the other countries we invited, and we would welcome their participation in keeping the Strait of Hormuz open.
QUESTION: Can I ask you to be a bit more specific, if you don’t mind, on what the ask would be? I take your point that you’ve said —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: — what you’re willing. But is there a request, for example, for naval help from Canada?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Every country will help in a way that fits with their choices, their capabilities, their capacity. We’re prepared to take any and all help. Some will provide gray ships on the water, some will provide help overhead, some will provide logistics support. There’ll be many ways that different nations can participate. We will keep private how we think those countries can best do that to fit what is the overall objective, which, of course, is to deter aggression from anyone, from any country, not just Iran, on any commercial vessel that is traversing the Strait of Hormuz. We are hopeful that our Canadian friends will participate.
QUESTION: Are there conversations, ongoing conversations with the Canadian Government about the specifics of what the contribution might amount to?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I never talk about private conversations that we’re having.
QUESTION: All right, let me ask you about another topic because I only have a few more minutes left with you. President Trump said yesterday – and I want to quote specifically – of foreign ISIS fighters detained in Syria. Quote: “Europe has to take them. And if Europe doesn’t take them, I’ll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany, and France, and other places.” Is that the formal policy of your administration and does it apply to Canada?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We want every country to take their citizens back. That’s step one. It’s an imperative that they do so. The challenges of these citizens that are – these terrorists, rather, that are detained today inside of Syria present risk to the world. They present real risk to the Canadian citizenry. And so there’s step one, which is that each country needs to take responsibility for their own citizens that travelled to Syria and fought as terrorists.
But there’s a broader issue as well, which is there are many that – whose origins are unknown or for whom they’re not going to be returned to their country, and we all collectively – Canada included – need to provide a mechanism by which we can continue to detain these people. I don’t want your kids, your grandkids to go have to catch these terrorists again, and the world needs to find a process by which we can collectively continue to detain these known terrorists in a way that is consistent with the rule of law and prevents them from ever rejoining the battlefield. And so – so then for many countries around the world, I’m confident that were it the case that we would not be able to detain them, that they would go back to places like Germany, like France, like Canada. They’re —
QUESTION: Facilitated by the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They are likely to come home, and we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to be clear, though, because facilitating sort of a collective process is different than, “I’ll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: Our efforts are very clear, and we’ve been clear with the Canadian Government. We want them to take their people back.
QUESTION: And what has the response been? Because we have asked the question of the Canadian Government many times as well, and they’re insisting they have no legal obligation to do so.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. They – we all have an obligation to make sure that terrorism throughout the world, wherever we find it, is something that we push back against. We’ve – we watched Canada do that in important ways. They’re leading an effort in Iraq, a training mission today in Iraq. These are important counterterrorism activities. With respect to when we catch a terrorist, every nation has an obligation to make sure that they are not returned to the battlefield.
QUESTION: Have you received any assurances from the Canadian Government that they’ll make those efforts?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, again, I don’t talk about private conversations that we’ve had.
QUESTION: Before I let you go, you’re heading off to the G7. It didn’t end so well last time for the Canadian prime minister, who was called by the President weak and very dishonest. What can you tell your allies, and specifically us in Canada, to assure us that this one won’t end the same way the last one did?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve been part of lots of conversations. I met with the prime minister this morning and we had a great meeting. There’s lots of places we work together. There’s great things we’re doing. We’re going to get the trade agreement across the finish line here in the next couple months. That will be good for the people of both Canada and the United States, and of course Mexico as well. I’m confident that it’ll be a successful meeting.
QUESTION: All right, I’ll leave it there. Thank you very much, Secretary Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: It was a pleasure to have you with us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, ma’am.