Pompeo off to Europe on final trip as secretary of state




Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the White House with family members, Friday, Dec.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the White House with family members, Friday, Dec.  

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make his final trip abroad as America's top diplomat this week, the State Department said Monday.

With just a week before president-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, the department said Pompeo will visit Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. While there, Pompeo plans to meet with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Belgium's foreign minister. He will then return to Washington, capping foreign travel for his two-and-a-half years as President Donald Trump's secretary of state.

Pompeo began the Trump administration as the head of the CIA but took the secretary of state job when the president fired Rex Tillerson in early 2018. Most recent secretaries of state have served for a full four-year presidential term. Pompeo and Tillerson are shortest-termed Senate-confirmed secretaries of state in decades.

"Secretary Pompeo will highlight the enduring importance of the Transatlantic partnership, champion NATO's ongoing success in safeguarding the Transatlantic community and adapting to new security challenges, and reaffirm the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Belgium," the department said in a statement.

Pompeo has had mixed results in his previous visits to Brussels, which is the home of NATO headquarters and the European Union - two institutions Trump has disparaged during his presidency.

A former military officer and West Point graduate who served in West Germany in the closing days of the Cold War, Pompeo has extolled the virtues of NATO but also made clear Trump's demands that allies step up their defense spending.

He has, however, received chilly receptions at EU headquarters, where Trump's decisions to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and numerous multilateral agencies and agreements have raised concerns.

Pompeo is not expected to visit the EU headquarters during his brief stay in Brussels and instead will meet only with his Belgian counterpart, Sophie Wilmes. He will return to Washington on Thursday.

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