US urges Europe to exclude Huawei from 5G networks

Madrid: A senior US diplomat said here that European nations and telecom operators should exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from any involvement in the development of 5G networks.

“That 5G toolbox for the European Union (EU) says that a high-risk vendor should not be providing critical or sensitive components to these networks,” Robert Strayer, the US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy, said at a forum in Madrid.

The EU guidance, he added, likewise says that “what had traditionally been viewed as the edge, the periphery, of the network will now have very important computing functions”, reports Efe news

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“Even the edges of the network, where there’s computing going on, are going to be highly sensitive and those parts should not be provided by high-risk vendors,” Strayer said, noting that the EU established three criteria for identifying a high-risk vendor.

The most important criteria, according to the US official, is that “the vendor not be headquartered in a country where there are no democratic checks and balances.”

“In China, there is no rule of law, no independent judiciary, therefore the Chinese Communist Party can command a vendor like Huawei or ZTE to take actions that are not in the interests of Spanish citizens or of citizens around the world,” Strayer said.

Spain was the last stop on a tour of Europe that earlier took the the deputy assistant secretary to the Munich Security Conference in Germany and to Portugal.

In Madrid, he met senior officials in the foreign and economy ministries as well as with telecom executives.

Strayer cited Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung as companies that the US government views as “secure and trusted vendors … on the same par of technology with Huawei.”

“In the US, we are using those three vendors currently to deploy 5G in dozens of American cities,” he said, insisting that “in no sense does the world need Huawei to be able to receive the best” 5G technology.

“It is the Chinese Communist Party as well as Huawei propagating this story, through millions of dollars of advocacy around Europe, that they are leading in this race. We need to demysticize 5G technology,” the US official said.

Several European telecom giants, including Spain’s Telefonica and UK-based multinational Vodafone, have announced plans to phase-out the use of Huawei components in the cores of their 5G networks in the interest of diversifying their supplier bases.

“It’s fundamental to this discussion to recognize that it should not be telecom operators making these important national security decisions for the public. It should be the governments themselves and the governments should push that stance that they want to have trusted vendors in their 5G network,” Strayer said.

Without raising the possibility of reprisals if Spain were to accept Huawei involvement in its 5G networks, the State Department official said that “if countries adopt untrusted technology in their 5G networks, that will jeopardize our ability to share information at the highest level.”

Strayer said that under Chinese law, “all entities must follow the mandates of the security and intelligence services” and are required to keep their cooperation with authorities secret.

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