LONDON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Britain on Wednesday that allowing China a role in its 5G network risked undermining the historic allies’ intelligence sharing, during a visit to London that also highlighted their differences on Iran.
Following talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Pompeo also condemned “disgusting” politicians who backed Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, and urged European nations to take back captured Islamic State group fighters.
In both a joint press conference with Hunt and a later speech, US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat delivered a blunt message over the importance of secure 5G networks.
“Insufficient security will impede the United States’ ability to share certain information within trusted networks,” Pompeo told an audience including British MPs at Lancaster House in London. “This is just what China wants — to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs.”
The US has banned government agencies from buying equipment from Chinese firm Huawei over fears Beijing could spy on communications and gain access to critical infrastructure.
A leak from Britain’s National Security Council last month suggested the government in London is planning a limited role for Huawei in its 5G network.
But Hunt insisted no decision had been taken, adding that Britain would “never take a decision that compromised our ability to share intelligence” with its close allies.
Pompeo urged the country to be “vigilant and vocal against a host of Chinese activities”, adding its government can demand access to data flowing through Huawei’s systems “as a matter of Chinese law”.
In remarks highly critical of China, he called the Belt and Road Initiative — its signature global infrastructure project — the country peddling “corrupt infrastructure deals in exchange for political influence”.
Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, Pompeo sought to channel the famously Atlanticist former British prime minister in railing against China’s international agenda.
“Would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion?” he said.