ROME (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he was concerned about China’s plans to extend its economic influence in Italy, while Rome promised to be on its guard as it developed new 5G technologies.
The United States has repeatedly urged Italy, home to several large U.S. military bases, not to deepen ties with China and Pompeo said he had reiterated the message at meetings with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
“The foreign minister and I had a long conversation about the United States’ concerns at the Chinese Communist Party trying to leverage its economic presence in Italy to serve its own strategic purposes,” Pompeo told a joint news conference.
“The United States also urges the Italian government to consider carefully the risks to its national security and the privacy of its citizens presented by technology companies with ties to the Chinese Community Party.”
Di Maio said Italy remained fully committed to its Western partners and understood the U.S. position.
“On the issue of the 5G, I told Secretary Mike Pompeo that we are well aware of the concerns of our U.S. ally and fully realise the responsibility faced by every country when dealing with security,” the Italian minister said.
Italy raised hackles in Washington last year when it became the first major Western economy to join China’s international infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative. However, the tie-up has yielded little economic gain thus far.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Writing by Crispian Balmer, editing by Gavin Jones)