ROME — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a stark warning for the Italian government on Wednesday: China is taking advantage of you.
The U.S. sees Italy as the European weak link in the power struggle with China after it became the first G7 country to sign up to Beijings Belt and Road trade and infrastructure investment plan last year.
Washington particularly wants to deter Italy and other European allies from accepting Chinese investment in infrastructure and using equipment by Huawei in developing their 5G networks.
At a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio after talks in Rome, Pompeo said the U.S. is concerned about China “trying to leverage its economic presence in Italy to serve its own strategic purposes.”
Pompeo, who is on a weeklong tour of Europe that also takes in Greece and Croatia, warned Rome “to consider the risk to its national security and privacy of its citizens” of allowing Chinese companies to help develop 5G networks. Unlike “when American companies invest, the Chinese Communist Party is not here to forge a sincere mutually beneficial partnership.”
Pompeo, bringing up his Italian ancestry, said Italians “should know that we will always be there for you as such problems arise.”
Pompeos anti-China rhetoric comes towards the end of a presidential election campaign in which the Trump administration has launched increased attacks on China. President Donald Trump has claimed that the Democrats are soft on China, and the State Departments Clean Network plan asks allies to cut Chinese tech from their supply chains for telecoms, cloud and apps.
The secretary of state also had harsh words for China over coronavirus.
Pompeo said, “The Chinese Communist Party must be held accountable for the pandemic and for one million deaths and enormous loss of trillions of dollars in economic wealth.”
But despite all the warnings, Pompeo, bringing up his Italian ancestry, said Italians “should know that we will always be there for you as such problems arise.”
Di Maio said Italy understood U.S. anxieties over the development of 5G technologies and was very conscious of the importance of having a secure network “as a NATO member.”
Italy is firmly anchored to the USA and the EU, with whom we share values and interests,” he said. “As a dynamic country,” Italy is “open to investment, but that cannot happen outside the perimeter of our Euro-Atlantic values.”
Di Maio also called for common EU rules on 5G security and said he would propose discussions on the topic at the next meeting of Read More – Source