US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, including his tough stance on China and negotiations with North Korea, backing Mr Trump’s re-election in an unusual speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Tuesday.
Mr Pompeo was the first sitting US secretary of state to address a national party convention in at least 75 years, breaking with a longstanding tradition of secretaries of state staying out of domestic politics.
The four-minute video message was pre-recorded during Mr Pompeo’s ongoing official visit to the Middle East, and aired on the second day of the RNC.
Standing against a scenic backdrop of the Old City in Jerusalem, he said that Mr Trump had made Americans safer and their freedoms more secure by putting his America First vision into action.
“This President has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world,” said Mr Pompeo, highlighting Mr Trump’s hardline stance against China, his withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran and his sealing of a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago.
“In China, he’s pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party. The President has held China accountable for covering up the China virus and allowing it to spread death and economic destruction in America and around the world, and he will not rest until justice is done.
“He’s ended the ridiculously unfair trade arrangement with China that punched a hole in our economy. Those jobs, those jobs are coming back home,” said Mr Pompeo, in a nod to the phase one trade deal that marked a ceasefire in the tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
Under Mr Trump’s presidency, tensions between the United States and China have risen sharply as their strategic rivalry deepened, with both powers clashing on everything from trade to technology to China’s handling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
China has emerged as a US election issue, with Mr Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden seeking to portray the other as weak on China.
The Biden campaign’s senior foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken responded to Mr Pompeo’s speech, disputing his portrayal of the Trump administration’s record.
“In fact, when China’s government withheld vital information about the virus and denied access to international experts, President Trump spent nearly two months praising its cooperation and transparency to protect his empty trade deal. No speech can erase that history,” said Mr Blinken, who was deputy secretary of state under former president Barack Obama.
In his speech, Mr Pompeo also said Mr Trump had “lowered the temperature” on North Korea, praising him for getting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to come to the table at three historic summits.
Turning to the Middle East and Europe, Mr Pompeo said Mr Trump had strengthened the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
“The President moved the US Embassy to this very city of God, Jerusalem, the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland,” said Mr Pompeo, shining the spotlight on a move that appealed to evangelical Christians, a solid core of Mr Trump’s base.
He did not directly urge viewers to vote for Mr Trump, nor did he criticise Mr Biden by name. But he said: “The way each of us can best ensure our freedom is by electing leaders that don’t just talk, but deliver.”
His speech at the RNC was controversial, with observers remarking that it appeared to run counter to his own reminder to diplomats last month not to engage in partisan political activity.
The State Department said its resources were not used and Mr Pompeo spoke in his personal capacity, but House Democrats said they would investigate whether the speech violated federal law.
Mr Trump will officially accept the Republican Party’s nomination to run for president at the four-day RNC’s finale today.