Attorney General William Barr has called on the United States and its allies to consider putting their "large market and financial muscle behind" either Nokia or Ericsson to make them "far more formidable" competitors to Huawei.
Echoing remarks made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in London last week, Barr characterized China as a "dictatorship under which the Communist Party elite jealously guards its monopoly on power," and stressed that the US and its allies "certainly need to be actively considering" supporting the non-Chinese companies on 5G.
According to Barr, the West could support the Finnish and Swedish communications infrastructure companies by ensuring "American ownership of a controlling stake, either directly or through a consortium of private American and allies companies."
Barr made the remarks at a think tank conference on China and its alleged "economic malfeasance," with FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina also addressing the event. Ahead of the conference, Evanina claimed that China was stealing between $300 to $600 billion in US trade secrets every year. China's Embassy in Washington dismissed the claims as "entirely baseless."
At the event, Barr described China as America's "top geopolitical adversary," and warned that it had "stolen a march and is now leading on 5G," capturing 40 percent of the market and "aggressively pursuing the balance."
The attorney general's remarks come just a day after the release of a report by Reuters citing sources that senior US officials including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper were planning to hold a meeting with their Chinese counterparts later this month to discuss impending new restrictions against Huawei.
Last week, after being briefed by the UK's security agencies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally granted Huawei a role in the roll-out of its national 5G networks. A visibly concerned Secretary of State Pompeo met with UK Foreign Affairs Secretary Dominc Raab soon thereafter, where he blasted Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party as "the central threat of our times," and warned that the UK's decision "creates risk" for Western security.
The UK's refusal to fall in line with US pressure regarding the Chinese technology giant was a major blow for Washington, with France, Germany, the Czech Republic and other nations already indicating that they would continue working with Huawei on their 5G infrastructure.
The US formally blacklisted Huawei and other Chinese technology companies in May 2019, citing their threats to US national security, but the Treasury has since repeatedly extended licences allowing US tech companies to continue doing business with the Asian nation to prevent billions of dollars in lost earnings.