US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last foreign trip as top US diplomat has been canceled, the State Department announced on Tuesday, citing the Biden administration’s need to remain in Washington to prepare for the transition.
Pompeo was set to travel to Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmess, but the State Department called off “all planned travel this week”.
According to three sources with knowledge of the decision, the secretary’s brief European tour was initially involved in a stop in Luxembourg, but the visit was stopped by small NATO country officials after Trump’s riot in the US Capitol last week.
In an interview with local outlet RFL on Thursday, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called President Donald Trump “a criminal” and “a political firework that should be placed before a criminal court.” A Luxembourg government spokesman declined to comment.
The State Department’s public announcement of the trip, released 24 hours before the trip, listed Belgium as Pompeo’s sole destination.
A visit to Belgium by a top diplomat from the United States would traditionally involve a meeting with EU leaders, as has often been the case for Pompeo. According to two European and two US officials familiar with the planning of the trip, no meetings were held with EU officials even before Wednesday’s events.
America’s allies have united in their downfall in violent scenes at the heart of American democracy, with some world leaders apparently blaming Trump for inciting his supporters to blow up the building. Both Stoltenberg and Wilmes described Wednesday’s violent attack on the Capitol as “shocking” and reiterated the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
But the secretary’s meetings in Brussels continued until Tuesday morning, sources said, with some State Department officials already on the ground.
By Tuesday afternoon Pompeo had called Stoltenberg and informed him that he would no longer travel, a NATO official confirmed to NBC News. Officials who were not on call said that the secretary made aware that the cancellation was due to the necessary arrangements around the infection.
A visit to Taiwan by the US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft was also called as part of the State Department’s cancellation of all travel this week.
After Pompeo lifted all restrictions on relations between the US and Taiwan last weekend, Kraft would have been the first member of the Trump administration to meet with Taiwanese officials. The move was strongly condemned by China, which sees Taiwan as an impostor province that it should control.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned Pompeo at the time to “prevent him from proceeding on the wrong and dangerous path” or that he would be “harshly punished by history.”
Abigail Williams and Josh Lederman reported from Washington, DC, and Carlo Engerer reported from Munich.