Pompeo: China wants to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes’

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US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has claimed China wants ‘to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes’ amid threat to reduce UK security cooperation if the country allows Huawei in national 5G networks.

Pompeo was on a brief visit to the UK and warned the country not to ‘go wobbly’ over 5G security – paraphrasing what Margaret Thatcher once famously told late US President George H.W. Bush.

“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 was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Ask yourself: would the Iron Lady be silent when China violates the sovereignty of nations through corruption or coercion? Would she allow China to control the internet of the future?”

Leaks from a meeting of the National Security Council suggested the UK was minded to allow the use of Huawei 5G equipment in ‘non-core’ parts of networks.

The US maintains any involvement poses a national security risk and the leak prompted increased pressure from the UK's closest ally, and fellow ‘Five Eyes’ partner, to ban Huawei or face a reduction in cooperation over grounds it may be compromised.

“Insufficient security will impede the United States’ ability to share certain information within trusted networks” he added. “This is just what China wants – to divide Western alliances through bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs.”

“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?”

UK culture secretary Jeremy Wright responded to Pompeo’s comments that no decision has yet been made. If deemed necessary, Wright does not rule out a delay to 5G’s rollout to protect national security – even if it requires using more expensive gear.

“There is certainly the possibility of a delay in the process of the rollout of 5G,” he said. “If you want to do 5G fastest then you do that without any consideration for security.”

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