By Patricia Zengerle and Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that “the tide is turning” in the United States’ relationship with China and that there is international support for his country’s policies, such as intensification of maritime maneuvers in the South China Sea and opposition to the use of Chinese technology in global 5G networks.
As a reflection of growing tensions between Washington and Beijing, Pompeo took a hard line on China during a testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We see the Chinese Communist Party as it is: the central threat of our times,” said Pompeo.
In recent days, Washington and Beijing have closed respective consulates – the United States and China in Houston, and China the United States in Chengdu – and recently Pompeo announced the end of Hong Kong’s special commercial status.
“We closed the Houston consulate because it was a spy hole,” he said.
He did not want to deal directly with reports that Russia offered rewards for the murder of US soldiers in Afghanistan. “The right people are aware of any threat to our soldiers in action in Afghanistan,” he said in response to a question from Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s most senior Democrat.
Pompeo publicly testified at a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing for the first time in 15 months and discussed the State Department’s annual budget request.
President Donald Trump’s government has been trying to reduce this budget since he took office, which Congress has rejected every year. Democratic lawmakers told the audience that they will not support deep cuts this year either.
Last week, the Democrats on the committee released a report that sharply criticized Pompeo’s term in office, saying he undermined the department’s ability to conduct diplomacy by leaving vacant posts for months, treating career diplomats badly and encouraging a culture of retaliation. .
Parliamentarians also asked the secretary why Trump abruptly fired Steve Linick, the department’s inspector general, in May while he investigated arms sales to Saudi Arabia and allegations that Pompeo himself wrongly ordered a taxpayer subordinate to take charge. personal tasks.
Pompeo denied wrongdoing, repeating previous claims that Linick leaked information improperly.