BLED, Slovenia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday to make the case for high-speed wireless networks that bar Chinese companies like Huawei.
On the second leg of a four-nation tour of central and eastern Europe, Pompeo met with Slovenian officials in the mountain lake town of Bled and signed a joint declaration on "5G Clean Network Security" that aims to keep untrusted telecommunications vendors out of Slovenia.
"Free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats," he said. "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."
Pompeo has led a U.S. campaign across Europe and elsewhere against Huawei and other Chinese companies that the Trump administration accuses of sharing sensitive data and personal information with China's security apparatus. The campaign has had mixed results, but NATO ally Slovenia is on board.
"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.
Slovenia last month rolled out a nationwide commercial 5G network with the Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, which Pompeo and other U.S. officials frequently mention as a "trusted" alternative to Huawei.
"The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to control information," Pompeo said.
Besides the 5G declaration, Pompeo discussed energy security with Slovenia's president and prime minister. The United States is keen to wean Europe from its dependence on Russian oil and gas and has launched numerous initiatives throughout the continent to diversify European energy sources. It has offered to sell U.S. fuel to Europe and has been promoting nuclear energy.
Pompeo arrived in Slovenia from the Czech Republic, where he called upon the young democracies in the region to 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.
Pompeo, however, said that "even more of a threat is the Chinese Communist Party and its campaigns of coercion and control."
"In your country alone," he said, "we see influence campaigns against your politicians and security forces, the theft of industrial data that you have created through your innovation and creativity, and we've seen the use of economic leverage to stifle freedom itself."
Pompeo said they should continue to resist Chinese attempts to assert economic and political leverage over them. He noted several recent developments in which China has threatened Czech officials with retaliation for showing support for Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong.
China has accused the United States of "oppressing Chinese companies" through its declarations about telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE being national security threats.