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Pompeo Visits U.K. To Discuss Joint Efforts To Counter China

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To London now - that is where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was today, talking with British counterparts about joint efforts to counter China. The secretary congratulated the United Kingdom for moving, earlier this month, to ban Huawei, the controversial Chinese telecom giant, from the development of Britain's 5G network. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Pompeo kicked off today's joint press conference by giving Britain a public pat on the back for supporting a harder line against Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MIKE POMPEO: I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the British government for its principled responses to these challenges. You've made a sovereign decision to ban Huawei from future 5G networks. You generously opened your doors to Hong Kongers who seek nothing more than fleeing just for some freedom. We support those sovereign choices. We think, well done.

LANGFITT: Pompeo was referring to Britain's recent decision to offer a path to citizenship for up to nearly 3 million Hong Kongers after Beijing implemented a national security law which is shrinking freedoms in the former British colony. As the Chinese government has grown more assertive, the U.K. has repeatedly pushed back in recent months. Today Pompeo also met with China hawks in the British Parliament in what was seen as an attempt to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take an even harder line against China's ruling Communist Party. When a reporter asked British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab whether pressure from the Trump administration had influenced the U.K.-China policy, Raab denied it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DOMINIC RAAB: I don't think there's any question of strong-arming. Mike and I always have constructive discussions. And actually, a vast majority of the times our views overlap and we work together very well.

LANGFITT: Today's press conference was designed to affirm an Anglo-American stance towards the world's second-largest economy. But Pompeo went much further, saying countries across the globe should join together to call out China for its moves in the South China Sea and along the Sino-Indian border.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

POMPEO: You can't go make claims for maritime regions that you have no lawful claim to. You can't threaten countries and bully them in the Himalayas. We want - we want to see every nation who understands freedom and democracy to understand this threat that the Chinese Communist Party is posing to them and to work both themselves and collectively to restore what is rightfully ours.

LANGFITT: China's criticized the U.S. and the U.K. for engaging in what it calls a Cold War mentality. But this isn't just about geopolitics. With more than 140,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and the economy in recession, President Trump is trying to portray Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, as soft on China and hopes his increasingly hard line will help him win a second term come November.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.