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Taiwan News' exclusive interview with Mike Pompeo

'Taiwan, US share vision for what freedom looks like': Former US Secretary of State

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan News spoke with former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a four-day visit to Taiwan, on Friday (March 4).

He highlighted Taiwan's undeniable sovereignty and called for deeper defense cooperation with freedom-loving nations in the Indo-Pacific to deter bad actors. He also condemned China's human rights abuses under Xi Jinping (習近平) and expressed optimism towards future Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Freedom is not guaranteed

Pompeo pointed to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that ended in bloodshed as the most unforgettable moment during his term with regard to China. He said the event was a reminder that even in places that have been promised freedom, it is not guaranteed.

"We were witnessing the Chinese Communist Party reduce these freedom-loving people in Hong Kong to living in a city that was no different than living in Shanghai or Beijing. That saddened me because they were simply trying to take care of their families, live their own life, live in freedom, but they were snuffed out by the Chinese Communist Party who didn't want them to be able to do that."

He regretted that the world was not unable to do more to protect their democracy and their opportunities there, in Hong Kong. "It reminded me of the duty each of us has -- every American, every Taiwanese -- to defend democracy and oppose tyranny wherever we can find it."

Push back against China

Pompeo said the White House under President Donald Trump's approach to relations with Taiwan was "straightforward" and reflected reality, since "Taiwan was never a part of China." He said that Xi could not be pacified or appeased if the U.S. engaged with him more or even "simply left him to be."

The former secretary of state said the Trump administration made clear certain boundaries to protect the U.S. economy from "Chinese predation" and built up friendships in the Indo-Pacific. He noted that Trump not only strengthened military relationships but also deepened diplomatic and economic relations with countries in the region that "would embolden and create an enormous capacity to resist Xi Jinping's hegemonic objective."

Pompeo blasted Xi as someone "using every tool in his tool kit," including aggressive military behavior, economic predation, and launching disinformation campaigns around the world, which undermines western democracy.

"We need to push back against that. We are capable of doing so together."

Building regional deterrence

In terms of closer regional military cooperation, Pompeo said each partner nation needs to have clear communication and transparency so as to know precisely how each will behave and for troops to be "trained to stand on the same ground," he said.

The latest technology can also reduce communication glitches, he said. "We need to make sure the technology that is purchased in the region is compatible, so when working alongside each other, they can work in a coordinated fashion."

"If we do that, then it would be an enormous deterrence, building a capable and coordinated defense. That could convince bad actors around the world that their aggressive tools would be costly. The established model would help prevent it from happening here and the same in Ukraine."

Security for Taiwan

Pompeo said that every country has the primary responsibility to defend itself. At the same time, the world needs to recognize "big bullies" and make sure a line has been collectively drawn between tyranny and freedom in a way that permits countries at risk of being bullied to have the ability to defend themselves.

Pompeo lauded Taiwan for its technological and military capabilities, adding that Taiwan understands the various challenges it faces in a deep and complex way, including in cyberspace. In this regard, Taiwan and the U.S. could be perfect partners to leverage technology to address emerging technology and cybersecurity threats together.

Weapons sales

Pompeo urged Taiwan to continue to make the case to the U.S. for particular systems it needs, including air defense systems, and that it will be able to train its troops “to use these high-end weapons in an effective way.” He noted that some countries have bought high-end equipment in the past but were not able to use them to their full extent.

“The good news is that the Taiwanese military is intensely capable and very good at what they do and we should all make the case for providing the weapon systems that the Taiwanese believe they need to provide for their own security,” he said.

Message to the Taiwanese

Pompeo said this was his first time in Taiwan and that the Taiwanese have treated him nicely. The Taiwanese “share my vision and America’s vision for what freedom looks like,” he said, adding that “they love to do all the things that make life so deep and so rich.”

With regard to future plans, the potential 2024 GOP hopeful said he is not sure what his next step will be. However, he said he will continue in the fight for freedom, democratic institutions, and human dignity, as it is something he has been supporting for his entire adult life. “I’m not going to walk away from that fight.”

Pompeo is scheduled to depart Taiwan on Saturday, after having met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃), Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and other dignitaries during his trip.