Trump plays good cop on Huawei after Pompeo’s threats

US President Donald Trump has engaged in a combative global campaign to keep Huawei products out of future 5G broadband networks. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump adopted a conciliatory tone this week toward Europe’s approach to Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecom giant the US has demanded its allies abandon over security concerns.

The Trump administration has engaged in a combative global campaign for months to keep Huawei products out of future 5G broadband networks, including threats to curb intelligence-sharing with allies if they don’t comply. The US alleges that China could use Huawei equipment for spying, a charge the company’s executives have repeatedly denied.

Trump had the opportunity during meetings with leaders of the US and Ireland this week to badger them about Huawei and amplify his administration’s threats. He’s instead taken a more cooperative approach.

“We deal very closely with – as you know – with your intelligence and your security and we’re working on that together. And I know you’re concerned like we’re concerned, we’re all concerned about it,” Trump told Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Wednesday at Shannon Airport. “We’re working on it together very much with not only Europe but with Ireland.”

After a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May a day earlier, he dismissed the idea of cutting Britain off from US intelligence-gathering.

‘No Limitations’

“We have an incredible intelligence relationship and we will be able to work out any differences,” Trump said in a joint news conference with May. “I see absolutely no limitations. We’ve never had limitations. This is a truly great ally and partner, and we’ll have no problem with that.”

Asked directly whether he was prepared to curb information sharing if Britain placed no restrictions on Huawei, Trump answered: “no.”

“Because we’re going to have, absolutely, an agreement on Huawei and everything else,” he added.

Trump is expected to meet with French President Emanuel Macron on Thursday.

‘Bad Cop’ Pompeo

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who joined Trump in the UK, has essentially played “bad cop” in Europe. Prior to Trump’s trip, Pompeo said during a visit to Germany that the US may have to change its “behaviour” regarding intelligence sharing.

It echoed a warning Pompeo made in April to NATO allies.

“We’ve made clear that if the risk exceeds the threshold for the United States, we simply won’t be able to share that information any longer,” he told reporters after meeting with counterparts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Washington.

May’s spokeswoman told reporters earlier Tuesday that the government is still reviewing its policy on Huawei and will make a decision based on “hard-headed technical assessments.”

Trump has been less understanding toward China and Huawei itself. His administration is seeking to choke off company’s access to vital US components, requiring its American vendors to seek US government permission to do business with the company.

The issue has become entangled in Trump’s trade war with China, particularly after the US president suggested the company’s fate could be addressed in a deal to resolve economic disputes.

China has recently taken recent punitive actions toward US companies including FedEx Corp. and Ford Motor Co. that analysts have regarded as retribution for Trump’s trade policy and his administration’s moves against Huawei.