Johnson looks to block Huawei from UK 5G infrastructure

UK PM says will not compromise country’s vital national security interests on 5G

With only one day to go before the general election in the UK, Boris Johnson remains the favourite to win, though analysts caution that the polls were highly unreliable in the two previous elections in 2015 and 2017.

One issue which will be on the desk of the new prime minister is whether to let Huawei participate in building the country’s 5G telecoms network, and Johnson looks ready to block such a move.

Speaking after the recent NATO 70th anniversary gathering in London, Johnson said that it was essential not to prejudice Britain's ability to share intelligence with key allies, and that he will not compromise Britain's vital national security interests on 5G.

Telecoms security was also on the agenda when US President Donald Trump met Johnson for a one-on-one meeting at 10 Downing Street. And at one of the group meetings, Trump reiterated that Huawei was a security risk and a danger.

The US has been stepping up the pressure on Huawei, including via an op-ed piece by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the influential Brussels-based publication Politico.

He wrote that, with so much on the line, it’s urgent that trustworthy companies build these 21st-century information arteries. Specifically, it’s critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei or ZTE.

“Just consider Huawei’s track record,” Pompeo wrote. He claimed that the company, based in Shenzhen, maintains links to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It has been implicated in espionage in the Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands; has allegedly stolen intellectual property from foreign competitors in Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States; and is accused of bribery and corrupt practices in countries like Algeria, Belgium and Sierra Leone.

Pompeo added that securing 5G networks means more than preventing any one company from building them. China’s National Intelligence Law makes clear that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can force any 5G supplier headquartered in China to turn over data and take other actions in secret.

He said that European companies like Ericsson and Nokia produce high-quality, price-competitive 5G equipment, as does the South Korean company Samsung. These firms are legitimate commercial actors that compete fairly. Even more importantly, they are headquartered in democracies that abide by the rule of law, and are accountable for their actions.

The head of the Chinese Mission to the European Union, Zhang Ming, was quick to denounce what he views as Pompeo's disinformation campaign against China and Chinese tech giant Huawei.

"Despite the witch hunt and media hype, not a single country or individual has come up with solid evidence to prove that Huawei poses a security threat," Zhang wrote in a letter to the editor of Politico. 

Date

11 Dec 2019

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