M. Pompeo: Address to Peace Summit 2023, Session V-Think Tank 2022 Forum

Good morning, everyone. I get the incredible privilege to respond to the first opening sets of comments. But before I do that, I just want to say thank you. Thanks for the chance to be here at Think Tank 2022 and alongside you try to think our way through how we can get to the objective, the objective that Mother Moon set forth to deliver peace, but peace on terms that God would love and appreciate, in a way that is decent and good.

It was fun to be here to listen to Dr. Pillsbury. I just tripled the number of words I know in Mandarin. He added three to the six I knew. His were lovely. The six I know my mother would not appreciate if I used. I learned of those six words in meetings with my Chinese counterparts who used them with too great a frequency. I appreciate how difficult these challenges are and we’re all here to think our way through them. Dr. Pillsbury was very kind in talking about how we worked in the Trump administration to change the way we understood the threat that was posed to the world from the Chinese Communist Party, the threat to peace that we can all see, that you here in South Korea feel every day.

It’s also timely that we’re here just after President Yoon came to visit the United States. What a fantastic, wonderful visit it was, reinvigorating a relationship that impacts peace all across the world. I am deeply heartened to see President Yoon’s bold initiative to increase the relationship with Japan. It’s great that Prime Minister Kishida will be here on Sunday. If we begin to think about the things that will really deliver the peace that we all want, it is this kind of remarkable leadership from South Koreans like Mother Moon and President Yoon. Bless him for that.

When we began to think about this in the Trump administration, I always peel it back. I’m a pretty simple Kansas boy. Kansas is in the American heartland. It would be like rural places here in the Republic of Korea, where people work hard, take care of their families, build real things. In that part of America, we always thought, it’s just not worth pretending. It’s just good to be real. When I heard Dr. Pillsbury speak today, and when you read his book, it’s about not pretending, or wishing the world to be the way you want it to be, but recognizing the reality of where you are. That’s hard sometimes. Indeed, in diplomatic circles where I found myself as a Secretary of State, it’s often shunned.

Indeed, many would rather go to parties and shake hands and nod and smile and pass the problems on to the next gal or to the next guy, but we tried not to do that. The work we did, having three summits between the president and Chairman Kim, was an effort to recognize the DPRK for what it really is: a totalitarian regime, atheist in nature and presenting an enormous threat to global peace. It was an idea of trying to convince Chairman Kim of what we know to be the reality, that he cannot continue to build a regime based on totalitarianism and denying basic human rights to his people, that one day that will end and this peninsula will be unified on terms that the people in this room will love and appreciate.

We tried to present facts, basic ideas. Let me try and run through just a few of them in the few minutes that I have today. First, I often hear the conflict in the world described as between the United States and China. I don’t believe that’s true for a second. This is not about some conflict between one country and another. This is about the model that will be set for the entire world, how each of you and every one of your families will live.

This isn’t about picking sides between the great American power and the great Chinese power. This is about picking sides with respect to decency and human dignity and property rights and the way that we will live and our children and grandchildren will live. This is the decision for every one of us and for every leader across the world.

Do not accept the Chinese hypothesis, the propaganda that says this is just a war between the United States and China, and the rest of you should just come with us. That will not serve any of us well.

Second, this is a little bit of an aside, but I often hear China brought forward in the context of we have to make sure that we cooperate with China because we need to save the world from climate change. I must tell you, there’s nothing that is a greater lie than that, by the way. This comes from the American administration today that says, gosh, we need to cooperate on climate change with China. If you care about decarbonization, if you seek a different climate, you should not begin to think about cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party, who this day will commission a coal-fired power plant and then one each week for the rest of this year and the one that follows, and the one that follows.

It will be those of us who are good and decent and who care about basic institutions that will deliver a solution to the challenges that climate change presents to the whole globe. It will not be a totalitarian Communist Party that will deliver that. It will be innovators and creators like we have here in the Republic of Korea. This is a fact. Do not live in the fantasy world that thinks that China, when they attend COP 26 and 27 and 28, actually mean a single thing that they say or sign as part of any of those agreements. They will lie to your face and they will laugh behind your back.

Third thought with respect to Taiwan. Dr. Pillsbury did the history. He knows the stories better than I could ever know them. But we all know the truth. Taiwan is not part of China. When we think about American policy for all these years, the Kissinger set of relationships comes to mind. I don’t criticize them. They may well have made sense in 1972, they may have made sense in 1982, but it is not the United States but rather China that has upset that understanding.

The understandings that were agreed upon recognized that the Chinese Communist Party would not attempt to undermine Taiwan. That was a central thesis, that we would all leave it aside. Of course, Xi Jinping has made a fundamentally different decision and we should just accept that fact. It is not the case that an American leader who one day recognizes that Taiwan is indeed a free and independent nation is upsetting the status quo. It is Xi Jinping who has upset that status quo. We should acknowledge that simple fact because these facts lead to the good policy decisions that can ultimately free us to get the very peace that we seek.

I give you another example that we are all still living. There is a virus that traveled across the world. You know, it’s the case that this gets spoken about very often, almost as if it’s ancient global history. We should not argue so much about where this virus began inside of China. You should know that I am convinced and am happy to wager any of you today that it came from a virology lab in Wuhan. But this is not the most important element of this virus.

The most important fact that is inescapable is that senior Chinese leaders knew of this virus, its lethality, its contagiousness, in the fall of 2019. And in the fall of 2019, they made a fateful decision for the world. They chose to lock down Hubei Province where Wuhan is located and chose to put tens of thousands of people on airplanes, knowingly ill, knowing that it would kill people all across the globe. And they sent them to places like Milan, Italy. They then locked down the information. They hid it. They denied the World Health Organization any capacity to aid and assist and reduce the risk to the world. And these decisions were deeply intentional.

We should never pretend that this was something that was uncontrollable or unstoppable. Xi Jinping himself and the leaders around him made a decision to foist this virus on a world that was unprepared to combat it. The result is millions of people have died, billions of people have been forced into less prosperity, and a world today that is still at risk from viruses coming from that same lab today that hasn’t changed its behaviors one iota.

These are the facts that we all must confront as we think about how to deliver peace. We know the solution. The solution is not appeasement. It is not pretending for even a moment that we have a new Cold War. We don’t have a new cold war. Xi Jinping has been at this for 40 years. It’s us who all pretended that peace was upon the world but it wasn’t true. We wanted to pretend that it was so. We have now allowed this problem to advance in ways that will be difficult to confront, but absolutely vital that we do if we’re to have a chance to create the very peace that Think Tank 22 is designed to create.

We are going to have to live in a world that is real and factual. We come from different faiths. But as the opening remarks made clear today, whether it is Hinduism or Buddhism or my faith, Christianity, we know that turning to these fundamental truths is always the way that leads people forward. It is always the way that we get to heaven. It is always the way that we get to peace. It is only when we choose to pretend, when we choose to turn away from truth, when we refuse to acknowledge evil’s existence and its place in the world, these are the times that we create conflict and war and prevent peace from breaking out.

I love the Chinese people. I want good things for them just like I want good things for the people of every nation. This is not about them. This is about a regime that is heartless and indecent and wants to create a world that is a model that will lead to conflict and poverty and no good for any of us. I pray that we’ll all get this right, that places like this today where we all come and we learn a little Mandarin and we take on a little bit of history and we resolve ourselves that this community, the people in this room can continue to deliver on the things that provide peace and hope in a prayerful nation.

Thank you for the chance to be here today. Bless each and every one of you.

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