The diplomatic fallout from the Australian, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS) pact and the submarine deal that snubbed France continues, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now joining the editorializing frenzy.
Pompeo was a phone-in guest on Fox Business’ ‘Mornings with Maria’ on Thursday, and spoke to host Maria Bartiromo about his feelings on the AUKUS situation, and in particular “climate czar” and former Secretary of State John Kerry’s role in informing President Joe Biden about it.
The fact that Kerry broke the news to Biden, who Pompeo felt was little (if at all) involved in a major strategic and diplomatic move, struck Pompeo as “odd,” and “disturbing.”
“It’s odd that it is the climate czar that is informing the president about a major deal that has to do with protecting the United States and its interests against the Chinese Communist Party, and even odder still that the president himself wouldn’t have been deeply involved in making sure he understood what we were doing, why we’re doing it and the timing against which the plan was going to be executed. I find the whole thing just utterly odd and disturbing that the president United States wouldn’t be in the loop with respect to all of these important issues.”
Pompeo also felt that Kerry had badly stumbled by giving China a set of strange priorities, by telling that America cares about “climate change,” as opposed to defending Taiwan or preserving the international status of the South China Sea, or human rights, especially in places like Xinjiang.
“Also related to Secretary Kerry… When Secretary Kerry goes to China and tells them that the most important thing that the United States cares about is climate change, that is a green light for Chinese Communist Party aggression. It’s a green light for them to do precisely what you’re seeing with respect to Taiwan… Taiwan was never part of China, and yet, you know, a promise on climate change in exchange for handing Taiwan over to the Chinese Communist Party, something I believe Xi Jinping thinks it’s entirely possible to cut a deal with the Biden administration on.”
This would not be the first time Kerry has made off-hand comments with potentially serious diplomatic repercussions. In 2013, he effectively set U.S. policy unilaterally during a press conference, when he said Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad could avoid airstrikes by dismantling his country’s chemical weapons. Russian diplomats immediately seized on that to propose a deal that would keep the U.S. influence in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular to a minimum, while heightening Russian influence and freedom to act. The U.S. was then forced to do an embarrassing walk-back of his comments, leaving it open to mockery and criticism.
The deal has brought vocal proponents and critics, and not always along strictly partisan, predictable lines. While most Republicans have a visceral loathing for China’s communist regime, and former president Donald Trump got a great deal of political currency on the campaign trail lambasting China’s trade relationship with the U.S. in particular. Yet governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, a Republican, criticized the AUKUS deal, rhetorically asking if Australia is “any freer than communist China, right now?”
One former Australian prime minister offered a strange criticism, saying that the U.S. couldn’t beat the Taliban, and that land always trumps water (as of writing it is not clear if he is aware that Australia is entirely surrounded by water). He also seemed to suggest that Australia attempt to improve diplomatic relations with China, but did not elaborate on how that would work, given China’s strategic objectives that seem to directly contradict Australia’s security considerations.
The party most upset over the deal, with the possible exception of China itself, is France. The pact effectively dissolved a $90 billion deal Australia made to buy French submarines made in 2016, in order to facilitate a naval deal with America. France was outraged, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling it a “stab in the back.” France then withdrew its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia.
With or without the AUKUS pact, it seems plain to many that some kind of confrontation is brewing in East Asia. Whether or not Biden is up to the task remains a matter of some doubt, as China increasingly signals a willingness to engage in a direct attack on Taiwan.
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