US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Switzerland about closer ties with China, telling the German-language newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) that Switzerland “should keep its eyes wide open”.
In the interview published online on Monday following a visit to Switzerland, Pompeo said that Switzerland was exposing itself to privacy breaches if it lets Chinese companies help build its infrastructure. Pompeo told the newspaper, “the Swiss attach great importance to the protection of their privacy and have for a long time. But if you operate with Chinese technology, you supply your information to the Chinese Communist Party. There is no privacy.”
The three major mobile network providers in Switzerland - Sunrise, Swisscom and Salt - all sell phones by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. But they have not indicated plans to cut ties with the company. Sunrise is pressing ahead with plans to build a 5G network using Chinese technology provided by Huawei.
The warning comes a couple weeks after US President Donald Trump placed Huawei on a list of suspicious companies that are prohibited from selling technological equipment in the US. In March, the language was more tempered during a discussion at the US embassy in Bern, when US officials said it was "urging its friends and allies to ensure the security of 5G technology”.
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The US Administration has sent similar warnings to other countries about using Huawei’s next-generation mobile technology equipment because of concerns that it could allow China to spy on sensitive communications and data. Huawei denies it is, or could be, a vehicle for Chinese intelligence.
"There is a danger that we will not be vigilant enough towards China and that China will someday possess structural elements of the world economy - elements that will then not reflect Western values,” Pompeo told the NZZ.
During a state visit to the US last month, Ueli Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency, said that Switzerland had chosen a different path than the US in dealing with China, preferring to advocate for its values directly with Beijing.
According to Reuters, he said that Switzerland had banned all foreign companies from providing services or hardware for its critical infrastructure, but Huawei was present in the private commercial market.
At the end of May, Huawei announced it would be making a significant investment in research and development in Switzerland creating around 1,000 jobs.
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