Washington: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo scrapped an 11th-hour trip to Belgium and directed senior diplomats including United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft to cancel overseas travel amid concern about leaving the country after last week’s invasion of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Pompeo had planned to go to Belgium on Wednesday for a night and Craft had planned to visit Taiwan but all travel has now been canceled, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. She cited the transition to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden and the need to complete planning.
“We are expecting shortly a plan from the incoming administration identifying the career officials who will remain in positions of responsibility on an acting basis until the Senate confirmation process is complete for incoming officials,” Ortagus said. “As a result, we are canceling all planned travel this week, including the Secretary’s trip to Europe.”
The cancellation of Craft’s trip with a little over a week to go for the Trump administration suggests that any next major U.S. move concerning visits to Taiwan — a key source of tension in its relationship with Beijing — will be made by Biden.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday it understood and respected the State Department’s decision and extended an invitation to Craft to visit Taiwan in the future.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office repeated that it “firmly” opposes any official interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan when asked about Craft’s cancellation.
“The U.S. should stick to the one-China principle and three joint communiques under whatever conditions,” office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian told a briefing in Beijing. “This is the promise the U.S. has made.”
While planning any transition is a big task, other secretaries have traveled overseas in the waning weeks of an administration. One person familiar with the matter said there was another issue at play: The secretary didn’t want to leave the country given the continued turmoil in the days since President Donald Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol building in a bid to halt Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
There’s also been growing criticism from overseas about Trump’s role in inciting the rioters and unease about associating with the outgoing administration. Pompeo had originally planned to travel to Luxembourg as part of his Europe trip this week but that was also canceled. The State Department didn’t say why, but Luxembourg’s leaders were outspoken in their condemnation of Trump.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cut short a seven-country trip to the Middle East and North Africa and returned to the U.S. earlier this week. Mnuchin’s return was to ensure continuity of leadership during a time of upheaval in the U.S., said a person familiar with his plans. – Bloomberg
Also read: America’s credibility has been stormed