In a bid to pressure the UK into barring Huawei from Britain’s 5G rollout, US officials reportedly went as far as to imply that allowing it on the market would be “madness.” The fears were dampened by the UK spy chief, however.
The US has upped the rhetorical ante on its largely unfounded claims that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will severely compromise a country’s cyber security if it is allowed to work on any of the world’s burgeoning national 5G networks.
A team of high-ranking US officials, including those from the National Security Agency (NSA), were set to present supposedly damning evidence to the UK government on Monday, arguing the equipment supplied by the Chinese company may come with hidden ‘backdoors’ granting Beijing access to critical British infrastructure.
In the wake of the meeting with the British ministers, the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh quoted US officials as saying that using Huawei technology for 5G in the UK would be “an act of madness.” It’s unclear exactly what proof the US officials presented to their British colleagues, as several major US allies, such as Germany and India, have so far found no compelling reason to ban Huawei from their own 5G networks.
Washington has long tried to persuade London into shunning the Chinese tech giant. In December, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien argued that once Huawei is given a green light in the UK, Beijing would “steal wholesale state secrets, whether they are the UK’s nuclear secrets or secrets from MI6 or MI5.”
Such an ominous prediction apparently did not strike a chord with the British intelligence community itself, however, with head of MI5 Andrew Parker telling the Financial Times in a recent interview that he had “no reason to think” the intelligence sharing agreement between the UK and the US would be in any danger if the British government refused to shut the door on Huawei.
Huawei has denied that it is in bed with the Chinese government and that its products can be used for spying, in turn warning the UK that by caving in to American pressure, it may see its own technological development fall behind on a “fabricated pretext.”
The UK is expected to make a formal decision on whether to allow Huawei to be a part of its next-generation networks later this month.