LONDON — Not for the first time, Boris Johnson took a gamble and got away with it.
The U.K. prime minister risked a wave of anger from the White House this week when he said Chinese tech giant Huawei could help build the British 5G network. But a visit to London from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed that the White House dog can bark without biting.
Asked on LBC radio on Thursday night how disappointed the U.S. was with the British decision, Pompeo avoided the chance to attack: “That’s a great question but I’m not going to answer it.”
He added: “Our relationship has been great. It’s been great for a long time. I believe now we’ll be able to do even more, whether that’s on security, or on economic matters [or] diplomatic things that we will work on across the world.”
For months, America lobbied Britain hard against allowing Huawei a role in U.K. 5G. The stated American concern is about putting data on a network it believes is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party — although some critics believe it has more to do with the U.S. hoping to suppress Chinese growth and influence. Huawei has repeatedly insisted it operates independently from Beijing and doesn’t pose a threat.
A White House official said the decision was disappointing. But Trump himself has not commented in public.
But the U.K. security services insisted they could manage the risk, and Johnson decided to allow Huawei to build so-called non-core parts of the network and face a 35 percent cap on the proportion it can supply. He also threw a bone to Donald Trump by saying Britain and the U.S.