US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned allies against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies on their soil, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them”, Reuters reports.
The United States and its Western allies believe Huawei’s apparatus could be used for espionage, and see its expansion into central Europe as a way to gain a foothold in the EU market.
Washington is concerned in particular about the expansion of Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecoms equipment, in Hungary and Poland.
“We want to make sure we identify [to] them the opportunities and the risks of using that equipment,” Pompeo told reporters during a visit to the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
Hungary is the first stop in a trip by Pompeo to central Europe that also includes Slovakia and Poland and is part of what administration officials say is an effort to make up for a lack of US engagement in the region that opened the door to more Chinese and Russian influence.
Huawei denies engaging in intelligence work for any government. It says its technologies serve 70 percent of Hungarians and that it cooperates with most telecoms providers in Hungary, including state-owned enterprises.
“We have seen this all around the world, it also makes it more difficult for America to be present,” Pompeo told reporters during a stop at the US embassy, referring to Huawei equipment. “If that equipment is co-located where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them.”
Pompeo announced plans for a defense cooperation agreement with Hungary, one of the European governments most enthusiastic about Chinese investment. But he said he had discussed “the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead in Hungary” in talks with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
Budapest’s nationalist government, which, like Poland’s, is largely isolated politically in the European Union, hopes to buy mid-range air defense capabilities from the United States.
In Poland, where Pompeo is traveling to on Tuesday, the government is considering banning Huawei from participating in the development of 5G capabilities after arresting a Chinese employee of Huawei and a former Polish security official on spying allegations last month. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
It is also lobbying Washington for an increased military presence on its soil. Slovakia, which Pompeo visits before Poland, is looking to buy F-16 fighter jets.
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