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London not impressed by Washington delegation on Huawei

By EARLE GALE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-17 09:43
[Photo/IC]

United Kingdom ministers and officials are understood to have been less than impressed by an anti-Huawei presentation delivered this week by members of a United States delegation.

The high-level visitors from President Donald Trump's administration delivered their message "dramatically" on Monday, the Guardian newspaper reports, but their contention that Huawei poses a security risk to Britain's 5G networks reportedly had no fresh evidence and contained nothing new for the British side.

The newspaper said the feedback it got after the presentation suggests British intelligence agencies are disinclined to alter their assessment that Huawei poses nothing more than a manageable security risk, a conclusion shared by the BBC.

A British government source told the paper: "We'd already anticipated the kind of threat that the US material demonstrates, and factored that into our planning."

The UK government is expected to make a decision imminently on whether it will allow the company to participate in the nation's 5G rollout. The government of former prime minister Theresa May made an interim decision last spring, saying the use of Huawei components in some "noncore" areas of the network was acceptable.

Members of the delegation said, before they made that pitch, that they had fresh technical evidence.

After the delegation finished, its members met journalists and one delegate insisted it would be "nothing short of madness" if Britain allowed Huawei to supply equipment for high-speed 5G mobile phone networks because components could feature secret "back doors" that allow espionage.

Despite the claims, no such doors have been found and no proof of their existence offered and Huawei has consistently said its equipment is safe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week he does not want to jeopardize Britain's intelligence-sharing relationship with the US but that he also does not want to stymie economic growth by failing to roll out 5G in a timely manner.

He told BBC Breakfast "the British public deserves to have access to the best possible technology".

"We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody," he said. "Now, if people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us what's the alternative."

Reuters, meanwhile, reports Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, was set to meet conservative lawmakers on Thursday to discuss whether Huawei should be banned from that nation's 5G networks.

Her party has partnered with the Social Democrats to form a coalition government but the junior partner is understood to want to ban Huawei from German networks. Merkel had previously said she did not support an exclusion.

Despite US-led opposition to Huawei, the company continues to be popular. The online magazine PhoneArena reported on Thursday that Huawei shipped 6.9 million 5G smartphones last year, edging out second-placed Samsung, which sold 6.7 million units.

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