US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has predicted “many, many countries” will reconsider telecom partnerships with China’s Huawei after Covid-19, using Beijing’s supposed lack of “transparency” to take a whack at a favorite target.
Pompeo was “very confident” that the Chinese response to coronavirus would “cause many, many countries [to] rethink what they were doing with respect to their telecom architecture,” he told Fox Business Network on Friday.
“And when Huawei comes knocking to sell them equipment and hardware, they will have a different prism through which to view that decision,” he continued.
The diplomat denounced the Chinese Communist Party’s “fail[ure] to be transparent and open, and handle data in an appropriate way,” bolstering the narrative the Trump administration has kept up throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Washington accused China early on of hiding the spread of the disease – even as it dragged its feet preparing for the epidemic to hit US shores – and later insisted Beijing was covering up both deaths and new infections.
The government had briefly let up on hammering Huawei amid the chaos the outbreak unleashed, quietly granting the company another 45-day license extension before doing business with it becomes officially off-limits for US companies.
However, Pompeo’s comments appear to signal that Washington has refocused its diplomatic efforts on what’s really important: intimidating allies out of using Chinese equipment. The US threatened last year to cut Germany and the UK out of the loop on intelligence-sharing if they partnered with Huawei on building 5G infrastructure, insisting the equipment was backdoored and used by Beijing for spying – although failing to provide any proof of such security risks. Despite US protests, however, both countries have tentatively moved forward in their relationships with the company.
Pompeo went further toward blaming China for the coronavirus outbreak in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, hinting that “We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There’s still lots to learn.” While the ‘wet market’ in question was initially believed to be the origin site for the coronavirus epidemic that has taken the world by storm, several studies have since called that theory into question, revealing that the earliest infected patients actually had no exposure to the market.
Doubling down on his insistence that Beijing had been doomed by its failure to be “open and transparent,” Pompeo grew vague about what the State Department knew and if it had received, as reported, a set of lurid cables in 2018 from US officials describing lax security procedures at the Wuhan lab.
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