The U.S. has stepped up its intervention in the UK's 5G development debate, as Britain is considering whether to allow Chinese telecoms company Huawei to supply "non-core" equipment for its next-generation network.
"There is a significant vulnerability to having untrusted vendors in any part of a 5G network. It is truly hard to understand how they are so confident that they can banish the untrusted vendor to the identical edge in the future," said Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. State Department, in his speech at the UK Parliament.
Strayer's remarks were strongly rejected by Huawei, which is helping major British mobile network operators to turn on its 5G service in the UK.
"In the absence of evidence, Assistant Secretary Strayer relies on crude stereotypes to argue our 18-year presence in the UK should be brought to an end," said Cheryl Xu, a Huawei spokesperson. "Huawei is an independent privately owned company that has never been involved in a serious cyber security incident in 30 years of operations."
"We will not be distracted from our overriding objective, which is to focus on developing world-leading 5G products for telecoms operators across Europe, so they can continue to enhance their networks, delivering new services and helping to boost economic growth," said Xu.
The latest U.S. lobbying comes as Conservative Party candidates battle to become the UK's next prime minister. The final decision on Huawei's 5G involvement is delayed due to Theresa May's resignation.
"Huawei already plays an important role in the UK telecoms economy. We have established a special regime to manage any concerns around security implications of Huawei," said UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond at a press conference with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua this week. "The 5G network is a vital piece of national infrastructure. It is absolutely essential to us that we get it right."
Earlier this year, Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming also urged the UK to choose independent decision making. "When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development."