PRAGUE, May 6 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic has signed a joint declaration with the United States to strengthen cooperation on next-generation 5G networks and promote rigorous evaluations of suppliers and supply chains, Czech leader Andrej Babis said on Wednesday.
The United States has long advised countries to boycott Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world's biggest maker of telecoms equipment, in setting up new 5G mobile phone networks, and also to scrutinise gear from another Chinese firm, ZTE.
Washington says the equipment could be used by China to spy on communications. Huawei and ZTE deny their gear poses a security threat.
The Czech Republic pushed itself into the debate at the end of 2018 when its cybersecurity watchdog warned of potential risks from using the two Chinese companies' technologies although the state has not outright banned the companies.
The Czech Republic, whose telecoms regulator is due to launch an auction for new 5G frequencies this year, was to host a 5G security conference in Prague this week but the meeting has been postponed due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
Czech Prime Minster Babis said on Twitter he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday when the two signed the declaration.
In it, the countries agreed evaluations should look at whether suppliers were subject to undue foreign influence, have transparent ownership, are committed to respect for intellectual property rights, or are subject to legal regimes that enforce transparent corporate practices.
"Protecting communications networks from disruption or manipulation, and ensuring the privacy and individual liberties of the citizens of the United States and the Czech Republic are vital to ensuring that our people are able to take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities 5G will enable," the declaration said.
The two countries also supported discussions on 5G security with the NATO military alliance, the declaration posted on the Czech government's website said.
The United States and Poland signed a similar declaration last September.
Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague Editing by Matthew Lewis