(Bloomberg) — U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reiterated a threat to withhold information from allies if it is transmitted across networks America considers untrustworthy and there is a danger sensitive data will end up in Chinese hands.
Speaking in Berlin Friday, Pompeo urged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to “lead in taking action against Chinese corruption, espionage and unfair trade practices” and said the U.S. may have to change its “behavior” regarding intelligence sharing.
China is a “national security risk” to western democracies and the challenge is far wider than the threat posed by the use in communications networks of equipment made by Huawei Technologies Co., Pompeo said at a news conference after talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He later had a 45-minute meeting with Merkel at the chancellery.
“We want to make sure the information doesn’t end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, it’s pretty straightforward,” Pompeo said. “We can’t permit private citizen data from the United States or national security data from the United States to go across networks that we don’t have confidence in.”
U.S. officials threatened late last year to shut Germany out of shared intelligence networks if Huawei was allowed to supply equipment for the country’s fifth-generation data networks. That threat, combined with issues such as potential tariffs on European autos and the Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipeline, has added to tension between the two countries.
Germany has resisted U.S. attempts to persuade it to blackball Huawei and instead plans more stringent testing, oversight and approval guidelines that will apply to all vendors. Only a handful of countries, including Australia and Japan, have joined the U.S. campaign to boycott the Chinese company. Maas referred Friday to the German government’s “high security standards” for 5G networks.
“We will not be prepared give a positive response to firms that are not in a position to fulfill these security standards, completely independently of which company it’s about,” Maas said.
Pompeo was due to meet Merkel and Maas at the start of the month but canceled at the last minute and fly to Baghdad. After meeting Pompeo Friday, Merkel hosted Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
–With assistance from Arne Delfs.
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