US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that China is the ‘threat of our times’ today as he met Boris Johnson amid anger over the Huawei decision.
Mr Pompeo said Beijing did not have the same ‘values’ as the UK and America, and refused completely to rule out downgrading intelligence sharing.
He insisted that the US would always be ready to tell Britain ‘what the heck are you doing’ when it disagreed with moves such as allowing the Chinese firm a role in the 5G network.
But Mr Pompeo also stressed that the Special Relationship was strong enough to survive the differences.
Speaking at a think-tank event alongside Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab before heading for Downing Street, Mr Pompeo said: ‘The truth is it is your best friends you call up and say ”what the heck are you doing”.’
Mr Pompeo said he recognised the UK had come up with safeguards to provide ‘adequate protection for their citizens’.
But he said the decision on Huawei ‘creates risk’ and cautioned that the US will not let secret material pass over networks it does not believe is secure.
‘The Chinese Communist Party presents the central threat of our times. It is an enormous economy to which the American economy is deeply tied,’ he said.
Mr Pompeo added: ‘We think putting Huawei anywhere in your system is very very difficult to mitigate and therefore not worth the candle.’
Boris Johnson met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today as he desperately tries to defuse the spat over allowing Huawei a role in 5G
Speaking before talks with Mr Johnson, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing did not share the ‘values’ that the UK and America stand for
Mr Pompeo was speaking at a think-tank event alongside Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
Mr Pompeo went to Downing Street for talks with Mr Johnson after the event with Mr Raab
Huawei has been classified as a ‘High Risk Vendor’ but ministers concluded that banning the firm altogether would delay the roll out of 5G by up to three years
Mr Johnson has been desperately trying to defuse the spat and avoid a full-scale Tory revolt after the announcement on 5G.
Huawei has been classified as a ‘High Risk Vendor’. But ministers concluded that banning the firm would delay the roll out of 5G by up to three years, with massive knock-on costs for consumers and the economy.
In a compromise deal, the firm will be banned from involvement in ‘core’ infrastructure which has access to sensitive data, and will instead be restricted to supplying the ‘edge’ of the system, such as masts and antennae.
The firm’s total market share will be capped at 35 per cent.
Why is Huawei’s involvement in UK 5G controversial?
Huawei has come under scrutiny over allegations of close ties to the Chinese state.
Founder Ren Zhengfei’s past links to the military have been cited as a concern, as has China’s history of state sponsorship and surveillance.
Chinese law can also compel firms to co-operate with Chinese national intelligence work, which some critics have suggested could see Beijing require Huawei to spy on people through so-called ‘back doors’ in its telecoms equipment.
Huawei has vehemently denied the allegations of any ties with the Chinese state and says it abides by the laws of every country in which it operates.
The Prime Minister told Donald Trump earlier this week that Britain would work with Western allies to diversify the technology market and ‘break the dominance’ of companies like Huawei.
Mr Johnson’s charm offensive with the US President appeared to head off immediate reprisals from the US President, which had lobbied hard for a blanket ban on Huawei.
But as he arrived in the UK last night Mr Pompeo insisted Britain should ‘re-look’ at the step.
‘We’ll have to wait to see what they actually do and importantly how they implement what they’ve laid out,’ he said.
‘There’s also a chance for the UK to relook at this as implementation moves forward.’
He added: ‘We will make sure that when American information passes across a network we are confident that that network is a trusted one.
‘Our view of Huawei is: putting it in your system creates real risk. This is an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party. We’ll evaluate what the United Kingdom did.’
Downing Street insisted that the Huawei decision would have ‘no impact’ on the UK’s ability to share sensitive intelligence with allies, including the US, as this was already conducted via secure networks.
However, the PM is facing a growing mutiny among Tory MPs who want the Government to limit the firm’s use further or ban it altogether.
Mr Pompeo (pictured centre) and US ambassador Woody Johnson (third from left) dined with ministers including (right to left) Julian Smith, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Mr Raab last night. Home Secretary Priti Patel (fourth from left) and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (second from left) also attended the dinner
Ex-Cabinet minister Damian Green said yesterday that the scale of the revolt could even be big enough to overturn Mr Johnson’s huge 80-strong Commons majority.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said he would be pressuring the government to ensure the 35 percent market share cap on Huawei is forcibly reduced in the years ahead.
‘We want to see modifications and changes made,’ he said. ‘We want to see commitment to actually getting Huawei out of the system over a period of time. They’ve got more to do.’
Another senior Tory MP said rebels were considering possible amendments to the 5G legislation designed to either reduce the 35 per cent market share allowed to Huawei or to set out a legal timetable to exclude the Chinese firm by a set date.