Pompeo says China will 'absolutely' pay a price for pandemic

Pompeo says China will 'absolutely' pay a price for pandemic
© getty: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Democrats subpoena top aides to Pompeo MORE on Wednesday said that the world will “absolutely” make China pay a price for the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, saying the cost will likely be reflected in changing relations with the world’s second largest economy.

“I think the world will absolutely make them pay a price,” Pompeo said in an interview with The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence FCC chairman highlights focus on telehealth, online learning during pandemic MORE.

“You can see it, every place I go, every foreign minister that I talk to, they recognize what China has done to the world," Pompeo said.

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The interview took place as part of The Hill’s New Threats, New Defense summit, where the secretary identified China as the Trump administration’s No. 1 national security priority if Trump is elected for a second term.

“I'm very confident that the world will look at China differently and engage with them on fundamentally different terms than they did before this catastrophic disaster,” the secretary said, referring to the pandemic.

Pompeo said the Trump administration’s strategy on China is about pushing back “to make sure we have a fair and reciprocal set of relationships with the Chinese Communist Party.”

That has taken the form of a slew of recent actions against Beijing and chilled communication at the highest levels, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE on Tuesday saying he has no plans to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump also told CBS News that he is “not interested” in pursuing a second-phase trade deal with the country.

Pompeo, who met with his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii last month, said the U.S. is “engaged in dialogue” but that the Trump administration’s strategy in dealing with China is to respond to moves the U.S. views as threatening and pursue “a change in behavior.”

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“This is a Chinese Communist Party that is acting in a way that poses real threats to the world, and the United States is going to respond in each of those venues to make sure that we preserve American national security and impose costs on the Chinese Communist Party in order to achieve the change in behavior that will have a good outcome,” he said.

This includes a move by Pompeo this week to put the United States in line with a 2016 international court ruling that dismisses China’s claims in the South China Sea, with the secretary saying the U.S. wants a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Pompeo said a decision will be made “shortly” on whether to ban the Chinese social media app TikTok in the U.S. It also follows the State Department’s move to put visa restrictions on employees of telecommunications companies, including Huawei, if the company provides support to regimes engaged in human rights abuses.

The administration argues that China’s 2017 law requiring communications companies to share data as part of security investigations poses a threat to users' privacy.

“Whether it's TikTok or any of the other Chinese communications platforms, apps, infrastructure, this administration is taking seriously the requirement to protect the American people from having their information end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party," Pompeo said.

Another area of key contention between the U.S. and China is Beijing's increased authority over Hong Kong, with Trump on Tuesday formally ending the United States’s special relationship with the territory.

Pompeo on Wednesday said the president hasn’t made a decision on whether the U.S. will grant refugee status to people from Hong Kong.

Lawmakers last month introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow Hong Kong residents to seek refugee status in the U.S. in response to Beijing's national security law.

The Trump administration has reduced the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 18,000 for 2020, the lowest amount since the program's inception in 1980.

Pompeo said there are “fewer people seeking asylum,” requests by people already in the U.S. to remain for fear of their safety returning to their home country, and that a backlog in the U.S. was further stymied by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It's been a little bit slower. Fewer people seeking asylum and our capacity to process asylum claims has been a little slowed down by the virus that emanated from China. We'll be back at it shortly,” he said.

The State Department said for 2020 it expects to process up to 350,000 individual asylum cases.