Five Eyes-Plus Tech Development Held up by UK’s Soft Huawei Stance

A person poses holding a mobile telephone the camera showing a sign advertising 5G mobile telecommunication in a shop in London on January 28, 2020. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a strategic decision on Jnauary 28, 2020 on the participation of the controversial Chinese company Huawei …
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The UK’s lack of definitive action over Huawei is reportedly holding up plans to form an international alliance of democratic countries to develop a secure alternative to the Chinese tech firm.

Britain is reportedly exploring the partnership to work on an alternative to Huawei, as the British government is set to make a decision this week on whether to limit the Chinese tech firm’s engagement in the building of the UK’s 5G network.

However, a U.S. official with knowledge of the “nascent discussions” said that further developments on the Five Eyes or an enhanced ‘D10’ tech partnership would be “conditional” on the UK’s decision this week, according to the Financial Times.

The source told the FT: “The UK has to show some skin, in terms of what it does and not just what it says it is going to do.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has, at best, signalled that “hostile state vendors” would not be allowed access to British networks, but has yet to clearly define a full disengagement from Huawei.

The concerns come on top of both the United States and Australia’s profound disappointment that Prime Minister Johnson decided in January to allow the “effectively state-owned” Huawei a contract to build 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G network. The U.S. had warned the UK that the technology firm was capable of creating a “backdoor” into British systems, allowing espionage by Beijing.

Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove also warned of the closeness between Huawei and the communist government, saying that the UK has been too soft on China.

“Huawei is not a sort of ordinary international telecommunications company; it’s an intimate part of the Chinese state. There is a close linkage undoubtedly between Chinese military capability and Huawei,” Sir Richard said on Sky News on Sunday.

Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told LBC on Monday that China will “certainly” launch a cyber attack in revenge if the UK cancels the Huawei contract.

“What we’re seeing is how Huawei is utilised by China, by its intelligence services as well, to collect data on its own people and we’ve also seen that happen across the field as well. We want to have secure telecoms infrastructure in the UK; I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask them to leave,” Mr Ellwood said.

“I think as soon as whatever announcement comes on Tuesday, there will be reprisals,” he predicted.

Reports last week suggested that the UK could cut off new purchases of Huawei equipment from the end of this year. The proposed move would be in reaction to U.S. sanctions on the company — ending the supply chain of American-made elements — that British security services concluded would result in components being demonstrably less secure.

However, those in the technology field say there is currently no easy alternative to Huawei tech without incurring high costs.

Even if the government went through with cutting off Huawei and set a proposed deadline of 2027, the CEO of leading telecommunications company BT, Philip Jansen, told the BBC that fully removing Huawei would take at least a decade.

The theoretical organisation would unite the Anglosphere Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States — or be a combination of the members of the G7 top economy nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and the U.S. — plus South Korea and India, known as the Democratic 10, or D10.

British security officials reportedly began discussing the partnership last year. Recent reports claim that the UK government has reached out to Japan’s NEC and possibly South Korea’s Samsung about developing an alternative to Chinese Huawei. Britain is also reportedly keen to bolster Huawei’s rivals Swedish Ericsson and Finnish Nokia and is exploring state aid options to support British tech industries.

 

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