Pompeo's last trip as secretary shortened, then canceled

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last trip abroad as the best US diplomat has been canceled, the State Department announced on Tuesday, citing the need to stay in Washington to prepare for the transition to the Biden administration.

Pompeo was scheduled to travel to Brussels on Wednesday to meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, but the Foreign Ministry canceled “all planned trips this week”.

The secretary’s brief European tour was supposed to include a stop in Luxembourg, but officials from the small NATO country canceled their visit to the U.S. Capitol following last week’s pro-Trump uprising, according to three sources with knowledge of the decision.

In an interview with the local sales point RFL On Thursday, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called President Donald Trump “a criminal” and “a political pyromaniac who must be tried in a criminal court”. A spokesman for the Luxembourg government declined to comment.

Asselborn has deeply criticized Trump in recent media interviews.Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via the Getty Images file

The State Department’s public announcement released 24 hours before the demolition listed Belgium as the only Pompeo target.

A trip by the top diplomat from the United States to Belgium would traditionally include a meeting with E.U. Leaders, as was often the case with Pompeo. But no meetings with E.U. Officials were already scheduled ahead of the events on Wednesday, according to two European and two US officials familiar with travel planning.

America’s allies, in their dismay, shared their dismay at the violent scenes at the heart of American democracy, and some world leaders specifically accused Trump of inducing his supporters to storm the building. Both Stoltenberg and Wilmès called the violent attack on the Capitol on Wednesday “shocking” and affirmed the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

However, the secretary’s meetings in Brussels took place on Tuesday morning, the sources said. Some State Department officials were already there.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pompeo called Stoltenberg to tell him he would no longer travel, a NATO official told NBC News. The officer, who did not call, said the secretary announced the cancellation due to the necessary arrangements for the transition.

A trip to Taiwan by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft was also canceled when the State Department canceled all trips this week.

Craft would have been the first member of the Trump administration to meet with Taiwanese officials after Pompeo lifted all restrictions on US-Taiwan relations last weekend. This move has been heavily condemned by China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province to control.

At the time, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned Pompeo to “no longer go the wrong and dangerous path”, otherwise he would be “severely punished by history”.

Abigail Williams and Josh Lederman reported from Washington, DC, and Carlo Angerer from Munich.

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