China’s embassy in Cyprus has accused the US of intimidating its allies after signing the island nation up to its “Clean Network” initiative, which seeks to curtail the influence of Chinese tech firms on the development of data networks around the world.
“China fully believes that the international community can see the true colours of certain US politicians,” the mission said in a statement on Saturday.
Countries should “say ‘no’ to the US practice of bullying and interfering” in the development and construction of their 5G networks, it said.
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The rebuke came after US undersecretary of state Keith Krach and Cypriot deputy ministry of research innovation and digital policy Kyriacos Kokkinos last week confirmed Cyprus’ membership of the scheme, and signed a separate deal to cooperate on science and technology.
“You are in good company now,” Krach said at the signing ceremony, according to a transcript of the meeting published by the US embassy in Cyprus.
“Thirty-five European nations, including 25 of the EU nations, are members of the Clean Network. There is strength in numbers and power in unity and solidarity,” he said.
In a separate interview with Cyprus News Agency, Krach warned the eastern Mediterranean island nation against working with Chinese technology firms, saying they could turn sensitive information over to the Communist Party or military.
He did not give any details of the cooperation agreement he signed with Kokkinos.
Krach said that Cyprus and other European Union nations were growing closer on issues like 5G security, and warned that countries like China and Russia were seeking to “exploit our greater interconnectivity and our freedoms”.
According to the US state department’s website, the Clean Network is a “comprehensive approach to guarding our citizens’ privacy and our companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party”.
Krach’s visit to Cyprus was part of a whirlwind tour of Europe and North Africa, where scrutiny of Chinese 5G firms, like Huawei and ZTE, is high on the agenda.
Before arriving in Nicosia, Krach visited Estonia, which banned Huawei from its networks earlier this month. After Cyprus, he flew to Egypt where he also appealed to leaders to join the Clean Network scheme.
China and the US are locked in a battle for technological supremacy and influence, with Washington accusing firms like Huawei and ZTE as being a threat to security and democracy.
Sweden last week banned both Chinese companies from building its next-generation telecommunications networks.
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