Sydney, Australia - Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo “The Unbreakable Alliance”:
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. It always concerns me, though, when you applaud before the speech. (Laughter.) So hang on, hear what I say, and see what you think.
I was reminded – I walked through a little bit earlier and I saw these card catalogs in the library – reminded me I’ve used those. I see young people, you have no idea what’s in those drawers. Reminds me how old I am.
It’s great to be with you all today. Foreign Minister Payne, thank you for the very kind introduction. We had a great meeting this afternoon alongside our counterpart Minister Reynolds and my new counterpart Mark Esper. And we – you and I had just seen each other in Bangkok, so I’m sure she’s getting sick of me by now.
And I’d be remiss too if I didn’t extend my thanks to the people of Australia for such a warm welcome here for myself and Susan. The same goes for those of you who are here today, the dignitaries, including Minister Turnbull; Penny Wong, the shadow minister of foreign affairs; Ambassador Hockey; our ambassador, A.B. Culvahouse; Jennifer Westacott, the chair of the business council; and Dr. John Vallance, the New South Wales librarian who’s responsible for this amazing place that we find ourselves today.
And of course, a special thank you to Tom Switzer and the Center for Independent Studies for hosting us here today. I look forward to taking your questions. We’ll see if you can stump me. Entirely possible.
I also want to congratulate Prime Minister Morrison on his recent victory. My wife Susan and I have been in campaigns before. We know how raucous they are, and thank you for your willingness to serve. I look forward to – we have a chance to see he and his wife tonight and we’re very much looking forward to that.
I know too that President Trump and the First Lady are looking forward to hosting them at the White House for a state dinner at the end of next month.
And I’d like to take some time today too to talk about things that matter, the reason that I came here. That’s the relationship, the unbreakable alliance between our two countries, and how we on the American side see this developing.
I’ll keep my remarks short because I’m eager to get Tom up here and have a go, and we’ll take some questions.
I wanted to get here. It was important for me to get down here. American diplomacy depends on showing up, especially talk with your closest friends, not give lectures. This is a new era. America doesn’t do that. The Trump administration knows you’re a partner, we are not your professor.
I want to tell you about a story, about a man who epitomized what our friendship is all about here. Your prime minister told it to President Trump last year, but it’s so good that I’m going to steal it.
His name was Leslie Allen, but everyone in his brigade called him Bull. Bull was an Australian who carried a stretcher during World War II and won admiration for fearlessly rescuing comrades wounded in the – on the battlefield.
In 1943, American and Australian troops were fighting side by side in what was then the Territory of New Guinea, taking very heavy casualties. That didn’t stop Bull – thus, I suspect, the nickname. He relentlessly raced back into the fray over and over again.
When all was said and done, Bull had delivered 12 wounded Americans to safety, even carrying them on his back. For his heroism, Bull received America’s Silver Star.
Now that’s what I call showing up for your friends.
This is a friendship – our friendship is one that was truly meant to be. History reflects that. We are continental democracies. We are nations of strivers.
We’ve both been through national struggles for civil rights and emerged the other side far better for it. We set an example for the world to follow each and every day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re not exactly the same – I had an earpiece in case I needed a translation today from your reporters – but when we – when it comes to the things that really matter, the things that we all value so much – democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights.
This is why we fought side by side in World War I and in World War II and in Korea and in Vietnam and in Iraq and in Afghanistan today and in Somalia, in our ongoing battle against ISIS.
And of course we share the ultimate bond: a commitment to come to one other’s aid and to act to meet threats against one another’s homelands, via the ANZUS Treaty. Americans will never forget how we invoked it – how you invoked it after 9/11. Treaties should mean something. I know that the one between our nations does.
But remembering those old glories matters, and it’s wonderful, but it’s not enough. It’s not to keep – enough to keep our people safe today, or our people prosperous, or our people free. Nations need to know today who is with them, and for the long haul.
And it’s true that you have your own perspective on the Pacific, but it’s not all that different from ours.
It’s true that other competitors are out there, but you’re learning that all that glitters is not gold.
It’s true that the United States can sometimes, I’m sure, seem far away. It’s a long flight between us, as I just experienced. The pilot said it was headwinds. I’m pretty sure it was just a big ocean.
But if there’s one thing I want you to know today, it’s this: The United States is a Pacific nation. I grew up on the shores of southern California. And we are here to stay with Australia as a friend and as an ally.
You heard me say earlier that I had great meetings with Minister Payne in Bangkok and today.
Singularly, my biggest takeaway from those conversations is that the days of Australia as a middle power are coming to an end. That’s a good thing for the region; it’s a great thing for the world.
It’s a turn that the United States welcomes, because you stand for the same things that we do: transparency and the rule of law, basic human dignity and freedom, responsible trade investment, partnership, not domination.
We’ve seen this as you’ve stepped up in the Pacific.
We welcome your new diplomatic posts all across the neighboring islands.
We’re grateful for your focus on Southeast Asia and your commitment to fighting crime in the Mekong region.
We’re delighted as well to see Australia support regional infrastructure projects – projects that are open, transparent, corruption-free.
And we commend your decision to investigate what Confucius Institutes are really doing on campuses here in your country. That builds on your courage to shine light on state-sponsored election interference as well.
And the United States is prepared to work right alongside you to ensure that every nation can have free and fair elections.
Nearly two years ago now we deployed our free and open Indo-Pacific strategy. It’s one that fits with your approach as well. In fact, we borrowed the name from you. We both know the principles that we love will strengthen the region.
Implementing them starts, as always, with diplomacy. We had a great trilateral meeting in Bangkok with our Japanese friends. We’ve worked together in what we call the Quad, and we are revitalizing it.
It continues too with military cooperation. I was a soldier once not so long ago, and today we’re conducting military exercises that would’ve been unthinkable alongside our allies the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, as well as New Zealand. And we’ve taken new steps to reassert the rule of law throughout the South China Sea. We all need to do more.
Now, economically – and I know there are many senior business leaders here with us today, and I’m thankful for that – economically, we are your number one source for foreign direct investment. And we’re proud of that. We do more than 65 billion in trade each year, and President Trump is always eager to find ways to boost America’s numbers.
And we’re encouraging some of our best and brightest towards the success in this region, too. Today I have the honor to announce the creation of four Indo-Pacific Fulbright Scholarships ‒ two funded by the United States and two funded by your great country ‒ to conduct research on the Indo-Pacific region.
So with this good foundation in place, let’s crack on as allies in our shared Pacific home, and all over the world.
Let’s help our neighbors secure their economic independence. We can get the Papua New Guinea electricity project we started last year over the finish line. I know we will. Foreign Minister Payne said she would turn the first shovel when I was with her today. Let’s help other countries, too, in the region meet their energy needs.
Strong nations prove their mettle when we tackle those security challenges together. Australia has supported our efforts to put pressure on North Korea to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions that have the opportunity to take a nuclear threat away from the entire world. And you’ve shown true leadership in making sure that your sovereign decision to protect your 5G networks will work.
But I know we can do more, and we talked about some of it today. Australians know the scourge of terrorism. How can we better stop fighters that are in Syria today from returning, from setting up camp in Southeast Asia? The United States and Australia depend on freedom of the seas so that we can each have prosperity. And I’m convinced too that we can work together to keep all shipping lanes open, even those that are further away in the Strait of Hormuz.
Let’s do more through meaningful, effective multilateralism, not empty gestures. It’s one thing to talk; it’s another thing, of course, to do. And we’ve built good new momentum. We’ve built momentum within the Quad, and there’s lots of room for growth.
Let’s get more done through the Pacific Islands Forum as well, and through ASEAN, where Foreign Minister Payne and I spent the last two days. I hope too that those of you who are in business here will visit and attend the Indo-Pacific Business Forum that’ll be held in Bangkok in November, a real opportunity to build economic ties between the United States, Australia, and all of the countries in the region. It’s a great chance for government and business leaders to explore new investments throughout the region.
I want to end by quoting what one Australian writer said about our friendship back in 1910.
He said, quote, “The United States and Australia are neighbors, united rather than divided by the vast emptiness of [the] Pacific waters. They face…with an unchanging front of friendship…Together they pursue the high ideals of brotherhood, liberty, and…judgment of a man by his own” – judging “a man by his own inner worth rather than the accidents of birth or [good] fortune.”
That’s a fancy way to say – the way this guy from Kansas would put it, but the point stands: We’re Pacific friends, bound together by an ironclad commitment to our shared values and our joint success.
And I am confident that this unbreakable alliance will maintain them now and forever.
Because that’s what friends do.
God bless you.
God bless Australia and the United States.
And God bless me as I take questions from Tom today. (Applause.) Thank you all.
MR SWITZER: And I’d like to call on the foreign minister, Marise Payne, too, for the questions as well. Secretary.
Is this, by the way, your first trip to Australia?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is.
MR SWITZER: It is. Wow. Bet you haven’t experienced winter days like this in Washington or your hometown of Kansas.
SECRETARY POMPEO: When I return home, it will be 94 and muggy.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: I did point that out earlier.
MR SWITZER: Right.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: This is winter in Sydney. Enjoy.
MR SWITZER: Yeah. Now, listen, I know you did an event recently in Bangkok. Two days ago you did a Bloomberg event similar to this and you talked about North Korea, trade, Hong Kong. I want to focus more on Australia and the U.S.-China relationship. Start with some breaking news. Few hours ago, the new Secretary of Defense said this afternoon that since missiles treaty has expired, the U.S. is keen to explore getting missiles in – around allies in Asia. Does that mean that allies like Australia should expect missiles in Darwin?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, what I think Secretary Esper was referring to is the – we decided that leaving the INF Treaty was necessary after years of work trying to convince the Russians to come back into compliance. When 50 – only 50 percent of a two-person treaty is complying, it’s a really odd place to find oneself for years, and so President Trump made the decision to recognize the reality. And so we’ve now begun to take actions which will begin to catch up with where the Russians are so that we too can have the ability to perform the functions that are with those.
As for where we’ll put those, frankly, decisions on force deployments, missile deployments, all the things we do around the world are things that we constantly evaluate. We want to make sure that we’re protecting our partners, protecting American interests. I think our efforts to deploy our resources, our defense resources to create deterrence and stability around the world are something we’re always looking at, and we’re happy to do it and we will do so with deep consultation with every partner.
MR SWITZER: These missiles have a five-and-a-half-thousand-kilometer range. Shanghai to Darwin is 5,000 kilometers, in range. How would Beijing feel if Australia had missiles in Darwin, foreign minister?
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: Well, I think it’s important to remember that the U.S. has had a strong military presence characterized in a number of ways throughout our region for a very long time now, and we have welcome that. We have engaged with it. We have worked with it. But I think it would be unfortunate to – or to characterize it in the way that you have. We obviously respect and support the U.S.’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The Secretary makes a very good point about a treaty with two parties in it where only one is pulling forward.
But for us, these are strategic decisions for the United States, and I’m sure they’ll be made in consultation with key partners, as the Secretary has outlined.
MR SWITZER: Okay, now, you mentioned the Confucius Institutes on Australian campuses. And as you well know, the Australian government of Prime Minister Turnbull rejected Huawei and the 5G network. It’s been a very tumultuous relationship between Beijing and Canberra. Mr. Secretary, how worried should Australians be about the rise of China as a great power?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s really straightforward. We have in the United States a deep economic relationship with China. We think there’s real opportunity there. But we have to be very, very careful. America sat – I think the world, frankly, watched for too long. We were asleep at the switch as China began to behave in ways that it had not done before. So whether that’s efforts to steal data across networks, which you just referred to in terms of the decision Australia made; or militarize the South China Sea, something President Xi promised the world he would not do; or engage in activities where they foist money on nations that are desperate for resources and leave them trapped in debt positions which ultimately aren’t about commercial transactions but are about political control – those are the kind of things that I think everyone needs to have their eyes wide open with respect to. The United States certainly does, and we welcome China’s continued growth, but it’s got to be right. It’s got to be fair. It’s got to be equitable. It’s got to be reciprocal. They have to behave in a way that ensures that the value sets that Australia and the United States have continue to be the rules by which the entire world engages.
MR SWITZER: Now, you mentioned the militarization of the South China Sea. Three years ago last month, the Hague ruled that China’s conduct in the South China Sea was illegal. Minister, you mentioned China’s illegal conduct in the South China Sea, and the governments of Australia, America, and Japan put out just recently a trilateral statement calling out China over its coercive, unilateral actions and also supporting cooperation in the Pacific. If China’s conduct is so outrageous, minister, why hasn’t Australia done follow-up freedom of navigation patrols through that contentious 12-nautical-mile zone in the South China Sea?
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: Well, Australia makes our own decisions about how we engage in the region, of course. But I think that any examination of the ADF participation and engagement in the region would show you a very significant, high level of activity, and a level of activity which clearly prosecutes our case for freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight according to international law in this region and in fact more broadly.
Most importantly, we have been consistent in pursuing the application of international law, the application of the UNCLOS in relation to any of the disputes in the South China Sea, to which we are not a party and nor do we take sides on claimants and their interests. But we have consistently advocated for the application of the UNCLOS in international law. We have reiterated that at every opportunity, including as recently as my participation in both the East Asia Summit and the ARF in Bangkok this week and in every other opportunity we have in terms of making public comment.
So Australia is a very consistent messenger on this matter. We are a consistent partner with our friends the United States. We work very closely together, but we’ll always make our own decisions in Australia’s national interest.
SECRETARY POMPEO: May I just add something there? Sometimes I’ll hear folks talk about trade and economic issues as separate from national security. Let’s make no mistake about it: China’s capacity, the People’s Liberation Army’s capacity to do exactly what they’re doing is a direct result of the trade relationships that they’ve developed. They grew their country on the backs of a set of unfair trade rules. So they were able to grow their economy at a high rate of speed and – and to steal technology and to force technology transfers. Those very same economic tools that President Trump is so focused on fixing are what also have enabled China to do all the things they’re doing with their military all around the world. It underwrites their capacity to build their military.
MR SWITZER: Thursday night in Canberra, CIS is hosting a debate in front of about 500 people. Professor John Mearsheimer – a West Point graduate like yourself, University of Chicago – he’ll be debating Professor Hugh White, some say one of our leading strategic thinkers. Let me put you – White’s argument to you: China buys double what our next-largest customer, Japan, buys from us. The Chinese economy will grow much bigger than America’s in coming years. Our China ties saved us from the global financial crisis. As a result – and this is Hugh White’s argument – Canberra would be unwise to support Washington in a confrontation with China that America probably cannot win. Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, look, you can sell your soul for a pile of soybeans, or you can protect your people. Our mission set is to actually to do both, because we think it’s possible to achieve both of those outcomes. We think it’s possible to have trade with China and yet require them to behave in – with the same set of rules. A company, a Chinese company that wants to invest in the United States has one set of rules vis an American company that’d like to invest in China. No country, no civilization permits this kind of imbalance in rules for an extended period of time and survives. And so our effort is to restore that reciprocity, restore that balance. You don’t have to give up all those good things that China does by selling and trading with you.
I will tell you this, too: We have a lot of trade here too. We invest an awful lot in foreign direct investment here, and I know these businesses out here would love to do more.
MR SWITZER: But does – does Washington still —
SECRETARY POMPEO: And they’d love to do it – they’d love to do it with the same set of rules.
MR SWITZER: Does Washington still believe unequivocally that the ANZUS alliance obliges Canberra to America’s side in the event of a conflict?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, repeat the question?
MR SWITZER: The ANZUS alliance.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, yes.
MR SWITZER: Does that oblige us to – Australia’s participation in any conflict —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the ANZUS Treaty is unambiguous.
MR SWITZER: Okay, but 15 years ago, minister, your predecessor, Alexander Downer, said in Beijing to an ABC journalist, quote, “Washington could not expect Australia to automatically side with the U.S. if China attacked Taiwan.” Is that your view?
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: You can expect me to be responsible for a lot, Tom, but I’m not sure you can expect me to be responsible for Alexander Downer’s statements 15 years ago. (Laughter.)
MR SWITZER: But isn’t he – isn’t Downer reflecting a segment of opinion that says increasingly Australia should be worried about getting too close to America in the event of a spat with China, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The idea that somehow we’re close to conflict in the military sense with China is what I think those who don’t want to actually confront the real challenges that China present raise as the specter. This is not the mission set. The mission set is very, very different.
MR SWITZER: Foreign minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE: And can I say, Mike and I haven’t spent the hours between 8 o’clock this morning 4 o’clock this afternoon discussing the depth and breadth of the U.S. relationship to bring it to a point of – like that. I mean, we have spent so much time today across a vast range of policy areas and engagements which illustrate exactly the observation that Mike just made. There is so much to this relationship predicated in a hundred years of mateship. If you ask my friend Joe Hockey, I was enthusiastic about pointing out that we’re in the second century now of that hundred years of mateship, which makes me feel old, apart from anything else. But there is so much more to the Australia-U.S. relationship, so much more to the values that underpin it, and so much more to the alliance than just —
MR SWITZER: Okay, final point: The U.S. Government has flagged the prospect of Australia joining an international coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. Secretary, how can Canberra play a more important role as an ally, partner in Asia – doing these freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea, for example – when it’s constantly pulled back to the Middle East?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have to get goods from A to B, and if A happens to be the Middle East, you’ve got to get them through the strait. And so we’re asking every nation to join. This is the deterrent against the bad behavior that the Islamic Republic of Iran has undertaken. They’ve pulled a British ship already, they mined and took on six other ships from other countries, one of them a European ship, a Norwegian-flagged ship. We’re asking every nation that has energy needs, that has goods and services passing through to contribute to our effort, which is deter and create stability in the Strait of Hormuz.
So we – we’re asking every nation, Australia and everyone, to come join us in that effort. Every country will contribute something different – information sharing, ships at sea, communication systems, ISR, all the elements of delivering this defensive deterrent posture in the Strait of Hormuz. We’re welcoming every country to join us in that effort.
MR SWITZER: Mr. Secretary, thank you, and unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we are out of time. The Secretary and the foreign minister are on their way toward their next schedule. Please join me in thanking Marise Payne and Mike Pompeo.