America Will ‘Rethink’ Co-Operation With Allies Using Huawei

The United States has sent a clear warning to the British government over its ‘decision’ last week to allow Huawei Technologies to supply equipment for parts of the UK’s 5G network.

It comes after the Daily Telegraph reported last week that the UK’s National Security Council (NSC) had agreed to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the network such as antennas and other “non-core” infrastructure.

But this has not impressed the UK’s closest ally, who has warned that Washington does not see a difference between core and non-core parts of a 5G network.

Blunt warning

The US cyber security official added that America would reassess sharing information with any allies which use equipment made by China’s Huawei.

“It is the United States’ position that putting Huawei or any other untrustworthy vendor in any part of the 5G telecommunications network is a risk,” Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications and information policy at the State Department was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“If other countries insert and allow untrusted vendors to build out and become the vendors for their 5G networks we will have to reassess the ability for us to share information and be connected with them in the ways that we are today,” he reportedly said.

It is not as if the blunt warning will come as any surprise to UK officials.

There has been intense lobbying efforts by the United States to pressure its allies to ban Huawei and other Chinese suppliers from participating in the build-out of 5G networks.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has previously warned allies that “America may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.

Leak embarrassment

An internal inquiry is currently underway in the heart of the British government after the Huawei decision taken by the secretive National Security Council was leaked to a newspaper.

The decision saw Huawei banned from “core” parts of the 5G network and restricted to only providing kit of “non-core” parts of the network.

But there is confusion about what constitutes core and non-core parts of the network, and the decision came despite concerns raised by senior ministers such as Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

Ever since 2010 the NSC meets weekly at the heart of government. It is made up of senior cabinet ministers and is chaired by the Prime Minister Theresa May, all of whom have signed the Official Secrets Act.

It discusses secret intelligence that is supplied by GCHQ, MI6 and MI5, and can include officials and senior figures from the armed forces and intelligence communities.

In other words, this is the main government committee that handles highly sensitive intelligence information, which should never be leaked.

Indeed, while leaks from cabinet meetings are common-place, information from the NSC had never been leaked before.

And the investigation could result in criminal charges, and the UK’s top civil servant, Sir Mark Sedwill has written to ministers on the council and their special advisers, demanding their co-operation with his inquiry.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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