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Britain set to axe Huawei 5G involvement: Report

06 Jul 2020 / 23:38 H.

LONDON: China's ambassador to Britain warned today that London faced a risk to its international reputation if it blocked Huawei from the nation's 5G network.

The Financial Times said the government will decide this month to phase out the Chinese technology giant's equipment because of persistent concerns about spying.

A UK security investigation, yet to be published, has raised "very, very serious" questions over Huawei's limited 5G role in Britain, the financial daily added.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said separately he had received the National Cyber Security Centre report and there would be a "significant" impact on Huawei's 5G role.

"It is not fixed in stone," Dowde said of an earlier decision to give the company a limited role. "We constantly review our security to ensure we have the best possible security for our telecoms network."

Dowden declined to comment on reports that officials were drawing up proposals to stop installing Huawei equipment and said any decision would be announced in parliament.

But Beijing's top envoy in London, Liu Xiaoming, described Huawei's involvement as a "win-win" for both the company and UK-China relations. "We have tried our best to tell the story of Huawei but we can't control the British government decision," he told a news conference.

However he warned that if Huawei was rejected, it could impact Britain's international standing and erode the trust of other existing or potential overseas investors. He suggested it would be an example of Britain succumbing to "foreign pressure", in a clear reference to Washington's position on Huawei.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under intense pressure from the US, and members of his own ruling Conservative Party, to cut ties with Huawei.

He said today the government would have to think carefully about the role Huawei plays in Britain because he does not want the country to be "vulnerable to a high risk state vendor".

"I'm very determined to get broadband into every part of this country," Johnson told reporters. "I'm also determined that the UK should not be in any way vulnerable to a high risk state vendor so we have to think carefully about how we handle that."

"We have to come up with the right technological solutions but also we will have to make sure that we can continue to deliver the broadband that the UK needs," he said.

Johnson's spokesman said an update would be given to parliament before the summer recess begins on July 22.

Britain granted Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January but officials at the National Cyber Security Centre have since studied the impact of US sanctions on the company that were announced in May.

US officials argue that the company could spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing – a charge the company denies.

Huawei's position has been complicated further by Washington's decision to roll out a new wave of sanctions to cripple the company's production of the chips used in 5G.

The FT said Johnson was drawing up plans to remove the Huawei technology from Britain's 5G network after warnings that the US sanctions could curtail the company's access to American semiconductors and force it to use riskier supplies.

Ambassador Liu rejected claims China was a "hostile country".

"We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner but if you want to make China a hostile country you have to bear the consequences," he added. – AFP, Reuters

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