China Trying to Drive Wedge Between UK and U.S. with Huawei, Says Senator

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-TX, on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on May 5, 2020. - The panel is considering Ratcliffes nomination for Director of National Intelligence. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP …
ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Republican Senator Tom Cotton has told British lawmakers that communist China is trying to force a “high-tech wedge” between his country and the UK with Huawei, warning that use of the effectively state-owned Chinese company could hurt bilateral military cooperation.

Speaking to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on Tuesday, Mr Cotton urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rethink his decision to allow the Chinese tech firm access to Britain’s sensitive telecommunications 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 security hearing, via videophone, where British MPs heard testimony related to Britain’s proposed 5G network construction.

In late January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would grant Chinese firm Huawei a contract to build 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G network. His decision came despite opposition from within his own Conservative Party and warnings from key ally the United States. The Five Eyes partner warned the UK that allowing Huawei into their networks could imperil intelligence sharing, with the company capable of building a backdoor into British telecommunications, allowing Beijing to spy on the UK.

On whether engaging the Chinese firm could threaten the Anglo-American military partnership, Mr Cotton warned that “Huawei could help China gain damaging information about how air crews fight to personal info about our airmen.

“Our fighters in England are armed with munitions by ground crews using special lanyards [the cable that arms a weapon when it is launched] shipped from the US. Those are transported by shipping companies operating on commercial networks.

“If that network includes Huawei 5G, it could give PLA [People’s Liberation Army] hackers a window into military operations.”

Since tensions have escalated with China over the former British territory Hong Kong and the communist state’s coronavirus coverup, reports have circulated that Mr Johnson has changed his mind on Huawei and will be instructing industry to remove the Chinese technology from Britain’s networks 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,” Senator 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.”

Prime Minister Johnson is also said to be exploring government financial aid for British tech firms to remove the need for Chinese products, amidst a wider review of making Britain independent of foreign imports for things like medical supplies and electronics.

Mr Cotton floated the idea of the U.S., UK, the G7, other European countries, and also South Korea and India working together to create a telecoms company of their own which he said could “far surpass in quality, performance and price, anything that China produces”.

The Arkansas senator is not the first to suggest an alliance to stand up to the threat of China’s hegemony. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump postponed the G7 to September where he suggested forming a G11, with the current G7 members plus additional eastern partners Russia, India, South Korea, and Australia. The G7 is dominated by Western countries the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Italy, France, and Germany, plus Japan, with President Trump criticising its “outdated” format, saying it did not reflect current global concerns.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab has also called for an international alliance to stand up to China after the communist superpower passed a law that would effectively crack down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

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