Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last overseas trip as a top US diplomat has been canceled, the State Department announced Tuesday, citing the need for him to stay in Washington to prepare for the transition to the Biden administration.
Pompeo was due to travel to Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with 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 originally scheduled to include a stop in Luxembourg, but officials from the small NATO country suspended the visit after last week̵
In an interview with local broadcaster RFL on Thursday, Luxembourg’s Secretary of State Jean Asselborn called President Donald Trump “a criminal” and “a political pyromaniac who must be brought to justice.” A spokesman for the Luxembourg government declined to comment.
The Foreign Ministry’s public announcement of the trip, released 24 hours before it was pulled down, listed Belgium as Pompeo’s only destination.
Traveling to Belgium with the United States’ top diplomat would traditionally involve a meeting with EU leaders, as has often been the case with Pompeo. But no meetings with EU officials were planned, even before Wednesday’s events, according to two European and two US officials familiar with travel planning.
America’s allies have been united in their dismay at the violent scenes at the heart of American democracy, with some world leaders explicitly accusing Trump of inciting his supporters to storm the building. Both Stoltenberg and Wilmès 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 were still Tuesday morning, sources said, with some Foreign Ministry officials already on site.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pompeo had called Stoltenberg to inform him that he would no longer travel, a NATO official confirmed to NBC News. The official who was not on the call said the secretary mediated the cancellation due to the necessary arrangements around the transition.
A trip to Taiwan by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft was also canceled as part of the State Department’s cancellation of all trips this week.
Craft would have been the first member of the Trump administration to meet with Taiwanese officials after Pompeo removed all restrictions on US-Taiwan relations last weekend. This move was strongly condemned by China, which sees Taiwan as an apostate province that it should control.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned Pompeo at the time to “stop going further down 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 reported from Munich.