The US on Wednesday upped the pressure on Europe to avoid turning to Huawei Technologies Co (華為) for 5G telecom infrastructure, with a top commander saying NATO forces would cease communicating with their German colleagues if Berlin teams up with the Chinese firm.
The US and several other Western nations, fearful of the security risks posed by a company closely tied to the Chinese government, have shut Huawei out of tenders for the development of super-fast 5G networks.
“We’re concerned about their telecommunications backbone being compromised in the sense that, particularly with 5G, the bandwidth capability and ability to pull data is incredible,” US General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, told US lawmakers.
“If it also is inside of their defense communications, then we’re not going to communicate with them” across those systems, the general said before the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. “And for the military, that would be a problem.”
Scaparrotti’s comments came during questioning about trade talks in Europe — and Germany in particular — with Chinese telecom groups such as Huawei.
The company has been charged by the US Department of Justice of stealing trade secrets, obstructing a criminal investigation and evading economic sanctions on Iran.
US Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger told the committee Huawei represents a “threat” to Europe.
“I can assure you that in all our conversations with all our European partners, we make very clear the threat of Chinese investment or development of the telecommunications infrastructure in Europe,” Wheelbarger said.
These concerns relate to the “security of our communications, both private ... as well as military,” she said.
The two Pentagon officials refused to give further details in public about their concerns, telling elected officials they would discuss the subject in depth during a later closed session.
Germany this month is due to launch auctions for future mobile telecoms infrastructure.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said that Berlin would consult Washington over using technology made by Huawei, although “we will define our standards for ourselves.”
Asked about the security standards that Europe could adopt to protect against Chinese espionage, Wheelbarger said there were none.
“Having looked into Huawei quite a bit a few years ago, I realized the challenges of even having a mitigation plan or strategy for the 4G infrastructure,” she said.
“Given this sort of generational shift that is between 4G and 5G, I am not aware of something that would give us the kind of security we would need to mitigate the challenges it would impose on us,” she said.
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