US top diplomat presses Dutch to be tough on China over tech

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a press conference with Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis at the CastelGrande as part of Pompeo’s visit in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Sunday, 2 June 2019. (Samuel Golay/Keystone via AP)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put pressure on the Netherlands on Monday to follow Washington’s tough line on China as the Dutch government prepares to auction off new “5G” internet rights.

Speaking after meeting his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok, Pompeo said they discussed, among other issues, “concerns about technology in infrastructure and technology and the 5G infrastructure network.”

Fifth-generation, or 5G, infrastructure is a key battle ground in a U.S.-China trade war, with Chinese tech gear supplier Huawei at its heart.

The Netherlands and several other European countries are in coming months going to auction off rights for 5G networks to telecom operators. The operators, meanwhile, are signing deals with tech suppliers for the new gear needed to run 5G internet.

A 2018 U.S. law bars Huawei, the biggest global maker of network equipment that enjoys a lead in 5G technology, from selling telecoms equipment to U.S. government agencies and contractors.

The Trump administration says the company can be legally compelled to spy on behalf of the Chinese government and is therefore a threat to international cybersecurity. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Huawei in May amid an escalating trade war and as the two powers struggle for long-term technological and economic dominance.

“We’ve been clear: our ask is that our allies and our partners and our friends don’t do anything that will endanger our shared security interests or restrict our ability to share sensitive information,” Pompeo said. “Friends speak to each other quite honestly and we had the opportunity to do that today.”

Blok said that the Netherlands shares U.S. concerns, but has not yet decided on the rules for its 5G auction, expected later this year.

“There is a specialist committee working now to decide on what criteria to add to the 5G auction and somewhere this summer those criteria will be published,” Blok said.

Pompeo’s brief stop in The Hague is the third leg of a four-nation tour of Europe in which he is both trying to calm nerves over rising U.S.-Iran tensions and stressing that America will defend itself and not relent in raising pressure on the Islamic Republic with economic sanctions.

On Sunday in Switzerland, Pompeo said the Trump administration is ready for unconditional discussions with Iran to ease tensions that have sparked fears of conflict.

The United States has long accused Iran of destabilizing the Mideast region.

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