China is using telecoms giant Huawei to “drive a hi-tech wedge” into the special relationship between the UK and the US, a top US senator told MPs yesterday.
Republican Tom Cotton is a vocal critic of Huawei and is part of a group of US senators who have urged Britain to reverse its decision to grant the Chinese company a role in building 5G networks.
“It is my hope that the special relationship remains strong although I fear China is attempting to drive a hi-tech wedge between us using Huawei,” he told the defence select committee.
The US has led calls to ban Huawei amid concerns its technology could be used for spying by authorities in Beijing — accusations the company has always denied.
Washington has also warned its allies that intelligence sharing agreements could be compromised if they decide to work with Huawei.
Cotton yesterday said the UK, US and other allies could instead work together to develop their own 5G technology.
“Today’s committee concentrated on America’s desire for a home-grown 5G company that can ‘match’ or ‘beat’ Huawei,” said Huawei vice president Victor Zhang.
“It’s clear that market position, rather than security concerns, is what underpins America’s attack on Huawei. The committee was given no evidence to substantiate security allegations.”
It comes amid reports that the UK has launched a review into its decision to grant Huawei a limited role in building the country’s 5G networks.
The company will be excluded from sensitive parts of the network and subject to a 35 per cent market share cap.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering a U-turn on the policy in the wake of fresh US sanctions against Huawei and growing pressure from backbench Tory MPs.
Last month the Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson had asked officials to draw up plans to reduce Huawei’s involvement in British telecoms infrastructure to zero by 2023.
“I do hope that as the government refines its decision, that if it doesn’t reverse it outright, it will mitigate it and minimise the use of Huawei technology, put it on a shorter time frame,” Cotton said.
“I would welcome that decision to go to zero by 2023 and I would urge you to try and do so even sooner.”