SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi. Well, good afternoon, everyone. I wanted to say a couple things as we head off on this extended trip. First, I think it’s really important for everyone to understand that the Iranians are out sowing disinformation in lots of places. First of all, you’ve seen the childlike map that Foreign Minister Zarif put out. The contrast with the excellence and professionalism of America’s military and our intelligence services should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about where that unarmed vehicle was. It was flying in international airspace, and we shouldn’t let the Iranians have one moment where any reporter would write that there was even a credible response to the data set that the Americans have put forward.
Second, the Iranians are out telling a story about a message that traveled through Omani channels. That’s just false. It’s pure and blatant disinformation. They passed another message that said that the United States was removing forces from Balad Air Force Base. You can go see them. They’re there.
I mention all of these things because it’s very important as the days proceed and as our efforts, our diplomatic efforts to change the nature of what the Iranian regime is doing go on, it is very likely that Iran will continue to present things that are fanciful, that are fraudulent, that are false. And we need to make sure that every news outlet, everyone who is observing this, understands what’s true and what the Iranian regime wants you to believe. That’s truly important.
I’m heading out today. Our first stops will be in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two great allies in the challenge that Iran presents, and we’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states but in Asia and in Europe that understands this challenge and that is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.
You’ll see too that our campaign that began when President Trump took office will continue. On Monday there’ll be a significant set of new sanctions, and the world should know that we will continue to make sure it’s understood that this effort that we’ve engaged in to deny Iran the resources to foment terror, to build out their nuclear weapons system, to build out their missile program, we are going to deny them the resources they need to do that thereby keeping American interests and American people safe all around the world.
Two other thoughts as I head out. One, nearly the same time that I’m commencing my trip there are many people headed for Bahrain, where the administration will roll out the economic component of its Middle East peace plan. It was released yesterday. I hope everyone will take a good look at it. It presents a brighter future for Palestinian people anywhere they are in the world.
And then last night there was reporting about a letter that was sent from President Trump to Chairman Kim. I can confirm that that letter was, in fact, sent. And I am hopeful that this will provide a good foundation for us to begin to continue the important discussions with the North Koreans to denuclearize the peninsula.
With that, I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Yeah, Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: Something similar you are looking for from Iran to show that they are willing to de-escalate? And why don’t you just pick up the phone and call them (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh goodness, look, the President said this this morning. I think the Vice President reiterated this. We’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions. They know precisely how to find us. And I am confident that at the very moment they’re ready to truly engage with us, we’ll be able to begin these conversations. I’m looking forward to that day. The President has said repeatedly we want a brighter future for the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those negotiations are the gateway. That’s how we’ll ultimately achieve this.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you talk a little bit more about the sanctions that the government plans to unveil, what sectors of the Iranian economy specifically are ripe for further pressure? And also on North Korea, do you anticipate working-level talks re-commencing at some point in the near future?
SECRETARY POMPEO: With respect to your second question, I hope so. We have been working to lay the foundations for that since Hanoi. We think we’re in a better place, and I think the remarks you saw out of North Korea this morning suggest that that may well be a very real possibility. We’re ready to go. We’re literally prepared to begin at a moment’s notice if the North Koreans indicate that they are prepared for those discussions.
As for the sanctions, so today some 80-plus percent of the North Korean economy is sanctioned. I think it’s important for everyone to remember. I think this is – of the Iranian economy. Yes, of the Iranian economy is sanctioned. This will be – I don’t want to get out in front of what we’ll announce tomorrow, but this will be a further effort to ensure that their capacity not only to grow their economy but to evade sanctions becomes more and more difficult, and it will be an important addition to our capacity to enforce sanctions against Iran to ultimately achieve the objective that we’ve laid out.
QUESTION: And you have a (inaudible) at another drone, what happens?
QUESTION: We’re back to this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, the President will make a decision as to – I’m not going to address hypotheticals. I hope that the Iranians will understand that the world won’t tolerate this. It’s not just the United States. The world understands who the aggressor is here. They understand that it’s the Islamic Republic of Iran that now has for four decades conducted assassination campaigns in Europe, conducted terrorist activity, has attempted to influence now more than four capitals throughout the Middle East. The Iranian nation has been a series of bad actors. Their leadership has taken them in a direction that their people surely do not want. So how we will respond to any particular act that the Islamic Republic of Iran takes, the President will decide when we get there.
Thank you all very much. I look forward to traveling with you all.