POMPEO TRIP MARKS U.S. RE-ENGAGEMENT WITH LONG-OVERLOOKED CENTRAL EUROPE

POMPEO TRIP MARKS U.S. RE-ENGAGEMENT WITH LONG-OVERLOOKED CENTRAL EUROPE

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) – When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Hungary, Slovakia and Poland this week he wants to make up for a lack of U.S. engagement that opened the door to more Chinese and Russian influence in central Europe, administration officials say.

On a tour that includes a conference on the Middle East where Washington hopes to build a coalition against Iran, Pompeo begins on Monday in Budapest, the Hungarian capital that last saw a secretary of state in 2011 when Hillary Clinton visited.

On Tuesday he will be in Bratislava, Slovakia, for the first such high-level visit in 20 years.

“This is overdue and needed,” a senior U.S. administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our message is we have to show up or expect to lose.

“Our efforts at diplomatic engagement are aimed at competing for positive influence and giving allies in the region an indication of U.S. support and interest in order to have alternatives to China and Russia.”

Washington is concerned about China’s growing presence, in particular the expansion of Huawei Technologies, the world’s biggest telecom gear maker, in Hungary and Poland.

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