February 13, 2019 / 6:46 PM / 4 days ago

Pence praises Poland's actions on Huawei as U.S. pressure mounts

WARSAW (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence praised Poland on Wednesday for its commitment to “protecting the telecoms sector from China”, as part of a concerted push by the United States to convince its allies to exclude tech giant Huawei from telecoms projects.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands during a joint news conference at Belvedere Palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Fueled by concerns that Huawei products could be used by China for espionage, Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stressed the dangers of collaborating with the Chinese firm during appearances in Poland and central European neighbors this week.

Huawei has repeatedly denied that its products could be used for espionage.

“We must continue to work so that all investment review mechanisms protect critical security and economic infrastructure going forward,” Pence said during a joint press conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

In January, Poland arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei and a former Polish security official on spying allegations.

Poland’s government is also considering excluding Huawei equipment from its future 5G network, sources told Reuters.

“The recent action your government has taken against a Huawei executive and a Polish national accused of cooperating with him demonstrate your government’s commitment to ensure our telecommunications sector is not compromised in a way that threatens our national security,” Pence said.

The comments came as Poland seeks to convince the United States to increase its military presence in the country.

The number of U.S. troops in Poland is capped at 4,500 but it fluctuates as formations rotate.

Poland, alarmed by Russia’s assertiveness on NATO’s eastern flank, has lobbied hard for the stationing of NATO troops on its soil, especially since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Duda told U.S. President Donald Trump in September on a trip to Washington that he would be willing to commit more than $2 billion to help facilitate the building of a permanent U.S. base on Polish soil.

IN THE RACE

Austria’s technology ministry and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel both said on Wednesday that an EU-wide agreement was needed on whether Huawei should be allowed to participate in building 5G networks in the bloc.

The European Commission is considering a de facto ban on Huawei’s 5G network equipment due to security concerns.

But some European countries have been reluctant to follow U.S. demands straightaway, and Huawei is determined to stay in the race for lucrative infrastructure projects.

The company is ready to face any extra security measures required to compete to develop next-generation 5G networks in central and eastern Europe, Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The U.S. government is very persistent, very determined and very forceful in communicating the messages about Huawei,” Purdy said in an interview.

He also said that Huawei is ready to work with the Polish government on additional steps to build trust.

The company has not as yet seen a slowdown in its business in Poland, the company’s senior standards manager in Europe said on Wednesday.

“We don’t see slowdown in sales on Huawei equipment here ... but if the situation continues, at some point it will impact our business as well,” Georg Mayer told a news conference in Warsaw.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper and Lesley Wroughton in Warsaw, Idrees Ali in Brussels, Writing by Alan Charlish and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Susan Fenton and Catherine Evans

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