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Boris Johnson's 5G Decision Doesn't Make US Happy

UK will let China's Huawei play a role in building network, despite spying fears
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2020 10:28 AM CST
Boris Johnson's 5G Decision Doesn't Make US Happy
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the national UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster in London, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.   (Chris Jackson/Pool via AP)

(Newser)

The UK said Tuesday it will let the Chinese tech firm Huawei build part of its 5G network, and the US isn't happy about it. The White House, worried the company will use its access to spy for Beijing, had wanted Huawei blackballed from the job. Coverage:
  • Compromise: Boris Johnson's government says it will give Huawei only a "limited role" in the work, reports NPR. Specifically, it says none of the company's equipment will be used in "sensitive 'core' parts of 5G." The involvement of Huawei and other vendors deemed "high risk" will be capped at 35% in the non-sensitive portions, and they will be kept out of nuclear sites and military bases.
  • Not good enough: The White House is already pushing back, notes Politico. "The United States is disappointed by the UK’s decision," said an anonymous senior administration official in a statement. "There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network."

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  • Consequences? Unclear. The US previously warned that it might not share intelligence with any nation that uses Huawei equipment, per the AP. And last week, three US senators wrote a letter to the UK warning that any post-Brexit trade deal between the US and UK would be threatened if Huawei got the job, reports NBC News. GOP Sens. John Cornyn, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton said their letter "represents a genuine plea from one ally to another."
  • Espionage law: The US maintains that under a 2017 law in China, Huawei could be compelled to conduct cyper-espionage for Beijing. Nope, says Huawei. "No law requires any company in China to install mandatory backdoors," CEO Ren Zhengfei said last year. A story earlier in the year at CNBC suggests the White House fears are valid.
  • Tough spot: This was seen as one of Johnson's biggest decisions to date on a post-Brexit future, notes the BBC. He had to balance pressure from both China and the US while getting a vital piece of economic infrastructure moving.
  • One view: "British decision to accept Huawei for 5G is a major defeat for the United States," writes former House speaker Newt Gingrich. "How big does Huawei have to get and how many countries have to sign with Huawei for the US government to realize we are losing the internet to China? This is becoming an enormous strategic defeat."
(Meanwhile, the US is still trying to have a Huawei exec extradited from Canada to face charges.)

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