Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States will support Slovakia's security and economy on the latest stop on his Central European tour aimed at curbing Russian and Chinese influence in the region.
'I want to make sure that the Slovakian people understand that America is engaged, we're back,' Pompeo said during a ceremony at the Gate of Freedom memorial on the border with Austria.
The monument commemorates the 400 people killed between 1945 and 1989 at the borders of then-Czechoslovakia while attempting to escape the Iron Curtain.
'On behalf of the United States I'm proud to stand in union with the people of Slovakia and Europe in recommitting to a future that is more prosperous, more secure and, most of all, great,' Pompeo said.
He also said that the United States and Europe 'must recommit' to their values as 'Russian aggression undermines freedom on this continent' and China 'represses people while it's expanding its influence abroad.'
Pompeo is in Slovakia on the second leg of his European tour that began in Hungary, and will take him to Poland, Belgium, and Iceland.
During his visit to Budapest on February 11, Pompeo met with Hungary's right-wing populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, to stress the importance of promoting democracy and the rule of law.
Washington sees those issues as key to countering Russian and Chinese moves to sow discord in the European Union and NATO.
At a joint news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjart, Pompeo raised concerns over ties between Hungary and Russia, and Budapest's contract with Chinese company Huawei to develop the country's fifth-generation mobile network.
'We must not let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin drive wedges between friends in NATO,' Pompeo told a joint news conference.
He pointed to Central Europe's reliance on Russian energy, particularly in Hungary.
Szijjarto welcomed Pompeo's calls for closer ties, but also brushed off the criticism on relations with Russia and China.
'There is an enormous hypocrisy and political correctness in the European political arena,' he said.
On February 12 in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called U.S. warning against using Huawei equipment 'groundless,' as the Chinese telecom giant faces espionage fears in a growing number of countries.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters RFE/RL
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