US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured Slovenia’s support for his “Clean Network” campaign against Chinese technology, as he continued warning against the Communist Party during his Central European tour.
Pompeo lambasted “authoritarian threats” such as China’s effort “to control people and information” on the second leg of his four-nation tour – three of which have joined China’s “17+1” grouping in central and eastern Europe.
“Free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats,” he said in Slovenia. “It is absolutely critical that every nation makes a good sovereign decision about how the private information of its citizens is going to be handled.”
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Contrary to the Czech Republic, Pompeo’s first stop, Slovenia has effectively rejected Huawei Technologies in its 5G systems, as it last month rolled out a nationwide commercial network with the Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson.
“The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to control information,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo and Slovenian officials signed a joint declaration on “5G Clean Network Security” that aims to keep untrusted telecommunications vendors out of Slovenia.
“Protecting communications networks from disruption or manipulation, and ensuring the privacy and individual liberties of the citizens of the United States and Slovenia are vital to ensuring that our people are able to take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities 5G will enable,” the declaration says.
Pompeo said another important topic in talks with Slovenian officials would be ensuring energy security by reducing the country’s dependence on Russia.
“We spoke about the enormous potential of next generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Pompeo said in Prague that the young democracies in the region should embrace hard-won freedoms and counter threats from Russia and particularly China, which he said is in many ways more dangerous than the former Soviet Union.
“The CCP is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was,” he told Czech lawmakers, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticised Pompeo’s “Cold War mentality” and “selfish” remarks.
“Wherever Pompeo goes, he’s spreading political viruses and false information,” he told reporters.
Filip Sebok, a China analyst at the Association for International Affairs, a think tank based in Prague, said Pompeo tapped into the increasingly hawkish stance on China among some Czech politicians.
“Pompeo finds a really attentive audience in Prague, jumping into a very heated public debate on China where the ‘hawkish’ views on China developed quite independently of what is happening in the US,” Sebok said.
“It remains to be seen if this will also push the Czech government to make a clearer decision on Chinese 5G providers.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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