US national security adviser warns UK about China's Huawei: 'They are just going to steal wholesale state secrets'

Telecoms giant denies representing any security threat

Andrew Buncombe
Tuesday 24 December 2019 17:04 GMT
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The US has urged Britain not to allow China’s Huawei into its 5G telecommunications networks, claiming it would “steal wholesale state secrets”.

Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, said the the presence of the telecoms giant would represent a direct threat to Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies – MI5 and M16.

“They are just going to steal wholesale state secrets, whether they are the UK’s nuclear secrets or secrets from MI6 or MI5,” Mr O’Brien told the Financial Times.

“It is somewhat shocking to us that folks in the UK would look at Huawei as some sort of a commercial decision. 5G is a national security decision.”

In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order preventing US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by companies posing a national security risk. His administration also added Huawei to its trade blacklist that month, citing national security concerns.

Since then, Washington has been urging other nations to follow suit, claiming the company’s equipment could be used by Beijing for spying – something the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied.

“It is somewhat shocking to us that folks in the UK would look at Huawei as some sort of a commercial decision. 5G is a national security decision,” added Mr O’Brien.

The question of whether Huawei’s 5G equipment could contain back doors allowing access to Chinese spying has been dividing countries in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which includes the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

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Britain has previously taken a less firm line compared to other countries in the group, indicating Huawei’s 5G products could be used in less sensitive areas.

Huawei did not immediately comment on Mr O’Brien’s remarks, which were made as it was announced the US and China would sign a trade deal early in the new year.

Previously, the company has said it believes prime minister Boris Johnson would not exclude it. Victor Zhang, Huawei’s president for global government affairs told Sky News earlier this month: “I am very confident that the UK will choose Huawei because the UK always takes an evidence and facts-based approach and that the decision-making will be based on the nation’s long-term interest and to satisfy society and the benefit of all consumers.”

He added: “Huawei have been here in the UK for more than 18 years and trust has been built with our customers and with the UK government through our openness and transparency.”

Additional reporting Reuters

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