Huawei's Role in UK 5G Rollout May Put US Forces in Britain 'at Risk', American Senator Claims

On Monday, The Times reported that UK Prime Boris Johnson is considering increasing state investments in domestic telecoms companies so that they can better compete in the 5G sector. The move is part of London's effort to reduce the involvement of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei in the country's 5G network rollout.

US Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who is among a group of American lawmakers pressing the UK to ban Huawei, has urged London, Washington, and their allies to team up in order to develop their own 5G technologies that could be superior to the Chinese tech giant.

He made the remarks during an inquiry by the House of Commons' Defence Select Committee into the security of 5G on Tuesday.

Cotton also asserted that using Huawei in the UK's 5G infrastructure could "give PLA [the Chinese People's Liberation Army] hackers a window into our military logistics operations", which he said may put US forces and American weapons systems based in Britain "at dangerous [operational] risk".

The senator added that as far as China is concerned, the "scales had fallen from a lot of eyes" over the past six months and that G7 member states could cooperate with other European nations as well as South Korea and India to establish new telecom equipment companies of their own.

“I have no doubt that we have the talent, the productive capability, the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to develop 5G technologies with software and hardware that will far surpass in quality, performance and price, anything that China produces”, Cotton argued.

Huawei’s UK chief Victor Zhang, for his part, stressed that "it's clear that market position, rather than security concerns, is what underpins America's attack on Huawei". He referred to the Tuesday hearing which "concentrated on America's desire for a home-grown 5G company that can 'match' or 'beat' Huawei".

According to Zhang, "the [Defence Select] Committee was given no evidence to substantiate security allegations [against Huawei]".

He also said that "for 20 years, we have worked hard with our customers and partners to build Britain's robust and secure 3G and 4G networks" and that the Chinese tech titan is "now focused on delivering the 5G network to the same high standards".

UK Position on Huawei

The statement followed The Times reporting earlier this week that British Prime Boris Johnson is considering boosting state funding in domestic telecoms companies, such as Vodafone and BT so that they can better compete in the 5G sector, part of London’s current efforts to reduce Huawei’s involvement in building the UK's 5G infrastructure.

In late February, however, the British government announced that it would give the Chinese tech behemoth a limited role in building the UK's 5G network, despite previous warnings from Washington that the move could potentially compromise Britain's security and hamper intelligence-sharing between the US and the UK.

At the same time, London stressed that Huawei would be excluded from the 5G network's "core" parts, such as safety-related areas.

The decision came amid a US crackdown on the Chinese firm which kicked off in 2019, when Washington blacklisted Huawei, accusing the company of cooperating with China's intelligence services, allegations that both Beijing and Huawei vehemently reject.

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