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Remarks to the Press by Secretary Michael R. Pompeo [Excerpts]
February 25, 2020

U.S. Department of State Seal
U.S. Department of State Seal

February 25, 2020

Press Briefing Room

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good morning, everyone.  It’s good to be with you all.  As you know, President Trump has been visiting our friends in India, and I’m just back from a ten-day, six-country trip.

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I want to talk about America’s world-leading response to the coronavirus outbreak, not just at home, but abroad as well.

As the President made clear, our first priority is to protect the homeland.  We’ve imposed prudent travel restrictions and strong travel advisories to slow the spread of the virus to the United States.  All known American carriers of the coronavirus are in isolation and treatment, and healthy travelers who traveled from high-risk locations – namely, Hubei Province and the Diamond Princess cruise ship – were placed in mandatory quarantine upon return to the United States.

Outside of our borders, the State Department continues to do an enormous amount of work to review developments inside and outside of China, and to help countries who have been stricken by the virus.

We also want to applaud the brave reporters who are covering the spread of coronavirus from Wuhan itself.

Expelling our journalists exposes, once again, the governance issue that led to SARS, and now, the coronavirus, namely censorship.  It can have deadly consequences.  Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge.

Similarly, the United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country.  As of yesterday afternoon, Iran was second only to China in coronavirus deaths.

All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations.

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QUESTION:  On China, you have issued a strong statement to condemn China for expelling The Wall Street Journal reporters.  What other options being considered by the United States to respond?  And what is your take on this headline controversy that some of The Wall Street Journal’s China staff has asked the paper to apologize and the headline which was considered by the Chinese Government as racist?

Separately, if I may, on coronavirus – is a coronavirus outbreak affecting the preparation of the expected U.S.-ASEAN special summit?  Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So with respect to the decision that the Chinese Communist Party made to expel three Wall Street Journal journalists, we made a statement; we’ve condemned it.  We’ve condemned it because it’s the wrong thing to do from a perspective of freedom.  We talk about reciprocity and what Chinese media outlets have access to or are permitted to do here in the United States.  That is not the case for U.S. media outlets or, for that matter, other non-Chinese media outlets inside of China as well.  So there’s an important principle there that we want to defend.

But second, it’s also incredibly important that we get accurate information about what’s taking place there.  With respect to the coronavirus, this data set matters.  This information matters.  The tactical situation on the ground matters, not only to assist us in helping the Chinese people, which we are committed to continuing to do, but to make sure that we are helping citizens all across the world, including citizens right here in the United States.

So we think that information flow inside of China is at a critical moment.  It’s always important that we get good information, that there’s free press everywhere.  But it’s especially essential at this time, where data and information matter because they provide things that go beyond anecdote so that we can respond in a way that meets the actual threat, not based on anecdote and rumor.

I don’t want to get ahead of what our policy options are that are being considered.  We’re looking at a broad range of things.  We will take the appropriate action and, if necessary, we’ll make sure that the President also gets a chance to weigh in on this decision as we move through our decision-making process.