Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday that China is behind a "fear in Europe" as Beijing aggressively continues to spread its influence across the world through economic initiatives and cyber disinformation campaigns that are forcing Europeans to choose between China and the United States.
"But that’s simply not the case," Pompeo said during a virtual conference at the 2020 Copenhagen Democracy Summit being hosted in Denmark. "It’s the Chinese Communist Party that’s forcing this choice. The choice isn’t between the United States; it’s between freedom and tyranny."
Pompeo noted China's growing influence in Hong Kong that has sparked months of anti-government protests, its persecution of Chinese Muslims, escalations with India amid cross-border disputes and its aggression in the South China Sea.
Earlier this week, Pompeo met with his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii as relations between Beijing and the U.S. have declined to its lowest levels in decades amid tensions over trade, China's handing of the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong and human rights.
Last month, President Trump announced the U.S. would rescind special trade and economic privileges it had extended to Hong Kong in response to China's new national security law limiting free speech and other civil liberties on the former British territory similar to that of the mainland.
"To the extent Hong Kong is treated by the Chinese Communist Party as just another piece of mainland China, there’s no reason for the United States to treat them any differently as well," Pompeo said. "And we have a law that requires that as well."
He added, "Europe faces a China challenge, just as the United States does, and as – just as our South American, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian friends do too."
He noted the Chinese Communist Party "wants you to throw away the progress we in the free world have made, through NATO and other institutions – both formal and informal institutions – and adopt a new set of rules and norms to accommodate them within Beijing."
China should play by a Western set of rules if Beijing wants to rise, Pompeo said.
His predecessor, former Secretary of State John Kerry, also spoke at the summit, criticizing President Trump's trade policy.
“Donald Trump is right to raise that issue [with Beijing]. But that is all he has done," Kerry said. "He raised it and then he walked away from it. And now we see in John Bolton’s book, he just didn’t walk away from it."
"He was ready to trade help for his re-election for buying more goods,” Kerry continued. “And he said if you buy more goods that is the end of the trade issue. No, it is not the end of the trade issue. So the president’s policy is not correct.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.