Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Aishath Shaany of Raajje TV

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Male, Maldives

QUESTION:  Welcome, sir.  Thank you for joining Raajje TV.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be with you.  Thanks for having me with you.

QUESTION:  How has your trip been?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s been great.  Too short, but wonderful to come visit here in the Maldives.  It was very kind of the president to invite me, and I’ve very much enjoyed the visit.  I think we’ve advanced the relationship between our two countries greatly.

QUESTION:  And what do you think the trip signifies?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I think – something that I’ve spoken with the foreign minister about when the new government came into office, I told him I would come – I wanted to talk about the things that we could work on together, the remarkable partnership.  We announced today that we’ll have a U.S. embassy here, which we’re very excited about.  The first time in history that we’ll have a permanently stationed American diplomat here to continue to build out what’s been a really important security relationship, an important diplomatic relationship, and of course, a deep economic relationship between our two countries as well.  And the also good work that democracies do together.  These are the kinds of thing where democratic countries who believe in transparency and the rule of law can work on together for the benefit of both peoples when a democracy can’t do that with an authoritarian regime.

QUESTION:  Another (inaudible) during this time where COVID-19 pandemic is going everywhere.  I wanted to ask some questions about that, especially since small island states like Maldives require great financial assistance to overcome the many challenges, and Maldives was – the tourism sector, which was the most beneficial in the country, was on a standstill and is kind of still on a standstill if we really think about it.  So we need financial assistance, such as debt relief.  So is – will the U.S. be providing essential assistance for the country?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We spoke with both the president and the foreign minister about this today.  We’ll certainly do our part to make sure the Maldives has a chance to get through this very difficult time.  This thing has impacted – this virus came from Wuhan, China, and impacted the whole world.  Your economy depends heavily on tourism; people can’t travel.  We want to do all the things that help get you – certainly debt relief to help get you through and delaying payments, but importantly, the United States is leading the world in assistance.  We provided $3 million and many, many ventilators here to the Maldives.  We’re working to get a vaccine; I’m hopeful we’ll have the vaccine before too terribly long.  All of the things that innovation, creativity, and democracies can deliver to the world, the United States is doing.  It’ll benefit not only the people of Maldives, but people throughout the region as well.

QUESTION:  And I’d like to go back a bit far in the past, to back in 2018.  U.S. was very critical of the then administration, especially after a controversial supreme court – Maldives 2018, in February 2018, and there were calls to restore democracy and people’s rights.  So how do you feel about the country, where the Maldives is at right now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The people of Maldives have taken a great turn we’re excited about that.  It’s allowed us to build out a relationship.  We wouldn’t – if we didn’t believe that with all our heart, we wouldn’t be putting an American embassy here.  So we’re excited about that.  We’re excited about the improvement in the lives economically for the people, we’re excited in the advances that are being made for the fundamental rights, including women here in the Maldives.  These are important things, and this government is working hard to implement those things that I think the people here care about and the United States cares about too.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And being a small island state, we were disheartened about United States position to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  Do you believe that this was the right move?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, absolutely.  The Paris Agreement’s a joke.  The countries that have signed onto it have no intention of actually complying with it.  If you look at what China, for example, has done, it’s the biggest polluter in the region.  It presents the greatest threat to the people of Maldives and their economy.  If you want to look to the greatest risk for increasing the amount of CO2 in the air, you need look no further than Beijing and its surrounding environments.

Contrast that with the United States, that we withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, but we in spite of that have reduced our CO2 emissions dramatically.  Look, we did it the way democracies do it: we did it with creativity, did it with innovation, and we did it because it made sense for our people to do.  This is how we solve problems, and it’s why it was such an important visit.  Two democracies working for a shared vision – this is how we’ll handle things like changes in weather patterns, it’s how we’ll handle all of the elements of our relationship.  Every strand in the security relationship, things that matter to the people of Maldives, will work better when they work alongside a good friend like the United States and a fellow democracy.

QUESTION:  Your announcement today about an embassy being opened shows that the relationship between both countries is strengthening.  So how do you see it growing in the future, especially with the embassy?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So there are so many different pieces of it.  I always think that the best thing democracies do together is they unleash the capacity for their citizens to create and innovate.  So that’ll be Americans who come here and want to invest, they want to help build countries – or companies and do joint ventures with companies from the Maldives.  And we’ll have students, I hope, that want to come to the United States and study and then return here.  We see this with our security relationship too, where officers from your services come and train in the United States.  These are the kind of things that we can build out true, strong relationships, make our countries both stronger and more capable.

QUESTION:  Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, I think it’s really important to watch as the democracies in the region are beginning to work together.  I think it’s something that was underappreciated for so long.  So whether it’s the Maldives working closely with India, or working closely with Japan and South Korea, the United States, Australia, Indonesia – all the democracies of the region working together, I am very confident that we will leave our citizens in the next generation better off than they are today.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for joining us.  And I know this was a very short trip, so I hope you get to come back and enjoy the Maldives more.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I would welcome that very much.  Thank you for having me with you today.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

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