LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked long-standing ally Britain over its attitude towards China and Huawei on Wednesday, saying it could impede Washington’s sharing of intelligence with London.
The United States has told allies not to use Huawei’s technology to build new 5G networks because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying, an accusation the firm has denied, but Britain has indicated it would allow it a restricted role.
Pompeo questioned Prime Minister Theresa May’s government attitude towards Beijing and goaded London by saying that the late former British leader Margaret Thatcher, who was known as the Iron Lady, would have taken a firmer line with China.
“Ask yourself: would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion?,” Pompeo said in a speech in London.
“Insufficient security will impede the United States’ ability to share certain information within trusted networks. This is just what China wants – to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs.”
Pompeo said the West faced the re-emergence of great power competition from China, Russia, and Iran.
“Now is not the time for either of us to go wobbly,” he said. “In China, we face a new kind of challenge; an authoritarian regime that’s integrated economically into the West in ways that the Soviet Union never was.”
Pompeo said China steals sensitive intellectual property and sensitive commercial data in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., and singled out Huawei.
“The Chinese government can rightfully demand access to data flowing through Huawei and ZTE systems. Why would anyone grant such power to a regime that has already grossly violated cyberspace?” he asked.
“What can Her Majesty’s Government do to make sure sensitive technologies don’t become open doors for Beijing’s spymasters?” Pompeo said.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; writing by Michael Holden