LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed ways to tackle the growing might of China when he met Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, just a week after London ordered a purge of Huawei gear from its 5G mobile phone network.
President Donald Trump lauded Johnson’s ban on Huawei, claiming that he had forced London’s hand due to concern over China, which he considers to be the United States’ main geopolitical rival of the 21st century. Britain has denied that it made the decision because of U.S. political pressure.
As Britain toughens its stance on China due to its handling of the novel coronavirus and a crackdown in Hong Kong, Pompeo’s visit is an attempt to stiffen Johnson’s resolve and dangle the potential reward of a post-Brexit free trade deal, diplomats say.
Pompeo, after discussing China in the garden of Downing Street with Johnson, said it was a constructive visit.
“Our two countries’ long-standing, strong bilateral relationship has laid the foundation for today’s candid discussion on issues ranging from 5G telecommunication to our negotiations for a U.S.-UK free trade agreement,” Pompeo said.
Beijing says the West — and Washington in particular — is gripped by anti-Chinese hysteria and colonial thinking about the communist state.
China, whose $15 trillion economy is five times the size of the United Kingdom’s, says the decision to exclude Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment manufacturer, will hurt Britain’s economy, set back trade and discourage investment.
Pompeo is also due to meet Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law and the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Peter Graff