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US-China tensions

TikTok cannot exist as it does, Mnuchin says

Pompeo hints at wider measures on Chinese software that could include WeChat

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with reporters at the White House on July 29.    © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- Whether TikTok undergoes a sale or halts service, the wildly popular short-video app run by Chinese company ByteDance cannot continue to operate in the U.S. as it does, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump will take action in the coming days on "a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party," signaling that the measures may target more than TikTok.

Appearing on ABC, Mnuchin said that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States -- which he chairs -- has been reviewing TikTok.

"I will say publicly that the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans," Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin said he also discussed the issue with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio -- both of whom are China hawks pushing for a ban on the social media app.

"We all agree there has to be a change," the secretary said. "The president can either force a sale, or the president can block the app using IEEPA." Mnuchin cited the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a 1977 law that authorizes the president to regulate international commerce to respond to an "extraordinary threat" to national security.

Pompeo, speaking Sunday on Fox News, characterized TikTok as posing "true national security issues."

Chinese software companies doing business in the U.S., including TikTok and Tencent Holdings chat app WeChat, feed data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo said.

"It could be their facial recognition pattern," he said. "It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they're connected to."

Trump aims to reach "as close to zero risk for the American people," Pompeo said.

Trump commented to reporters on Friday. "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States," the president said.

Though Trump signaled that he would act as soon as Saturday, a decision has been delayed, suggesting further debate regarding the way forward.

On Saturday, Reuters reported that ByteDance had agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely, seeking a deal with the White House. Microsoft is seen to be considering buying the operations.

Hu Xijin, the influential editor of China's hawkish Global Times, tweeted Sunday that TikTok committed "two sins." The company "challenged the high-tech hegemony of the U.S.," he said, and also had mobilized "[y]oung people who don't like Trump."

"Microsoft's acquisition can solve the first problem, but Trump just wants Tiktok to die," he wrote.

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