Pompeo cancels Germany visit due to 'pressing issues': US

Pompeo cancelled a visit to Germany at the last minute (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

Berlin (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled a Germany visit Tuesday hours before he was due to arrive in a move that did little to alleviate diplomatic strain between the traditional allies.

The no-show came at a time when President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on migration, trade, Russia relations and what he considers Berlin's insufficient NATO spending.

Pompeo had been due to meet Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas later Tuesday.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus cited "pressing issues" for Pompeo's late cancellation and said "we look forward to rescheduling this important set of meetings".

"The Secretary looks forward to being in Berlin soon," she said, but gave no further details or explanation for the sudden change of plans.

German parliamentary foreign affairs committee chair Norbert Roettgen said that "even if the reasons for the rejection are unavoidable, it unfortunately fits in with the current climate in the relationship between the two governments".

Merkel's office referred all queries about the reasons for the cancellation to the US embassy in Berlin.

Germany's foreign ministry said in a short statement that "both sides agreed to quickly find a new date. Foreign Minister Maas expressed his understanding for the postponement."

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily more bluntly labelled the last-minute cancellation "an impertinence" and judged in a headline that "the German-American friendship lies in ruins".

National news agency DPA said that Pompeo's cancellation "fits into the rather desolate picture" of the relationship.

It pointed out that Pompeo, the former CIA chief, has been in office for more than a year and visited dozends of countries, yet had so far stayed away from Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

Pompeo started the trip attending a meeting of ministers of the Arctic Council in the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi.