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Ambassador warns UK on Huawei review

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-07 16:43
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Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming. [Photo/Agencies]

China's ambassador to the United Kingdom has cautioned London about problems that could arise from any reversal of the decision to allow the Chinese telecom company Huawei to participate in British networks.

Liu Xiaoming said the UK would sacrifice quality if it phased out Huawei components.

"It's up to the UK to make the final decision," he said. "I think Huawei have done their best to address concerns over security."

Liu said Huawei could help the UK achieve its "ambitious plan" of ensuring 95 percent of the nation is served by 5G technology by 2025.

He spoke after the UK said it would again review Huawei's role, this time in light of United States sanctions introduced in May.

Oliver Dowden, the UK's secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport, said the nation's security agencies were concerned that the US sanctions could impact the reliability of Huawei equipment, which was set to play a significant role in the expansion of UK 5G networks.

"We've had these US sanctions that were imposed a couple of months ago," Dowden said on the radio station LBC. "I've asked the National Cyber Security Centre to analyze the impact of them."

The reappraisal followed Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing in January, that, after years of US lobbying for London to boycott the Chinese company over alleged security breaches, Huawei would not be banned from British networks.

The UK government said at the time Huawei would be allowed to continue to participate, but that it would be limited to a maximum market share of 35 percent and be blocked from core network infrastructure.

But the US sanctions have thrown that decision into doubt because they compel foreign semiconductor makers to obtain a license if they plan to use US equipment in any chipsets sold to Huawei. If such licenses are denied, it would be much harder for many of the world's main chipmakers to sell to Huawei.

"It seems likely (the sanctions) are going to have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei, I've just received that advice, I will be discussing that with the prime minister and if there's any change of policy arising from it I will make an announcement," Dowden said.

The Daily Telegraph had reported that the National Cyber Security Centre will recommend to Johnson that Huawei products be removed from UK networks by 2029.

Huawei Senior Vice-President Victor Zhang said Huawei is "open to discussions with the government" on the issue.

"We are working closely with our customers to find ways of managing the proposed US restrictions so the UK can maintain its current lead in 5G," Zhang said in a statement. "We believe it is too early to determine the impact of the proposed restrictions, which are not about security, but about market position. All our world-leading products and solutions use technology and components over which the UK government has strict oversight."

Paul Harrison, head of international media at Huawei UK, said the US sanctions were designed to weaken Huawei's position as a global leader on 5G.

"This isn't about security, it's about money," Harrison wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "Given the US has consistently failed to provide evidence to back up endless spurious allegations — which clearly few, including the UK were prepared to listen to — they've resorted to threatening to cut off Huawei's supply chain."

He said Johnson was right to have earlier approved Huawei's continued participation because "having three major players in the market is better than two".

He said the US "fell asleep at the 5G wheel years ago" and is now "fighting to claw back market position".

"Shouldn't the US respect a United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era being in a position to choose its own telecommunication strategy?" he wrote. "On Huawei right now, the Trump administration wants to call the shots."

Han Baoyi in London contributed to this story

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