Washington, Feb 12: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned Hungary over the presence of Chinese telecommunication manufacturer Huawei in the European country is complicating Budapest's partnership with Washington.
The Chief American diplomat arrived in Budapest the first leg of his European trip. Huawei has established Hungary as a European hub, where it can develop its fifth-generation mobile networks.
Mike Pompeo said "If that equipment is co-located in places where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them. We want to make sure we identify [to] them the opportunities and the risks associated with using that equipment, VOA reported.
While noting sovereign nations such as Hungary will "make their own decisions," Pompeo said it's imperative the United States shares potential risks from Huawei with its NATO allies.
Hungarian Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, Pompeo said he has raised with Szijjarto "the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead in Hungary."
But the US pressure campaign against Huawei faces challenges. Hungary has said it has no plans to reconsider the decision to award the 5G networks contract to Huawei.
Christopher Ford, US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation said "That sounds like a lot of mirror imaging to me. The Chinese government has actually been extraordinarily grand in its ambitions to do just that sort of thing with Chinese companies.
Ford pointed to numerous public reports in recent years that have blamed Chinese government-backed hackers with cyber campaigns stealing corporate secrets and financial data.
"Cyber-facilitated theft of intellectual property, for example, has become notorious around the world. But the Chinese government has been doing that very systematically in order to advantage its own national champion industries in particular sectors," Ford added.
Weary of data collection and Chinese technology transfer for military purposes, the US government is considering tighter restrictions on the use of social media apps that have geolocation features within diplomatic and military facilities.
While the State Department does not expressly prohibit the use of commercial geolocation applications on smartphones and other personal electronic devices by employees serving internationally, measures are taken to address the potential security risks.
The State Department has issued guidance requiring each post to develop a policy regarding the restrictions placed on using personal electronic devices.
"We obviously need to continue to be mindful of that, and to update and improve our understanding of best practices," said Assistant Secretary of State Ford.
All social media companies gather data on their users, but experts warn that Chinese companies in particular pose unique challenges because the Beijing government has absolute authority to request private user data.
Claudia Biancotti, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) said "The user in Western countries might not be aware that in China, the government has a far broader reach compared to over here, so they can request data out from a private company on national security grounds.They don't really have independent courts to oversee the process.
"If this information is sent to China, it can be easily accessed by the government and leveraged, say, to make Beijing's surveillance software better at recognizing Western faces, or at extracting intelligence on Western military activities," warned Biancotti in a recent report. (UNI)