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UK to allow Huawei in parts of its 5G network in blow to US

The United Kingdom’s National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday said it would allow the Chinese telecommunications group Huawei to be a part of its 5G network, turning aside calls from the Trump administration that all equipment from the company be banned due to fears of spying by China’s government. 
 
The UK’s NSC did vote to block all “high risk vendors” such as Huawei from involvement in secure “core” 5G networks, but it did not broaden the ban to cover its entire 5G network.
 
The exclusions on Huawei’s equipment cover all critical infrastructure, nuclear sites and military bases, and other sensitive parts of networks.
 
The NSC said it would  allow a presence of “no more than 35 percent” of equipment from high risk vendors like Huawei, which is one of the largest telecom equipment providers in the world, in peripheral networks.

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) noted in a joint statement that “the government is certain that these measures, taken together, will allow us to mitigate the potential risk posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks.”

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said in a statement on Tuesday that he was “reassured” by the NSC’s decision.

“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” Zhang said. “This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

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The move is likely to draw bipartisan pushback from U.S. officials, and it could be a hurdle to a future U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement.

On Monday night prior to the NSC’s decision, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent joint letters to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and all other NSC members urging them to vote against allowing Huawei any involvement in British 5G networks, and noting the UK’s decision could have an impact on trade relationships. 

“This letter represents a genuine plea from one ally to another,” the senators wrote. “We do not want to feed post-Brexit anxieties by threatening a potential U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement when it comes to Congress for approval. Nor would we want to have to review U.S.-U.K. intelligence sharing.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also pushed for the UK to ban Huawei from their networks when he met with the British finance secretary earlier this week, noting according to Reuters that the U.S. has “significant concerns” related to Huawei.

In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously in November to designate Huawei as a national security threat, and block American telecom companies from using FCC funds to purchase equipment from any group deemed a threat. Huawei announced in December it was suing the FCC. 

On Capitol Hill, multiple pieces of legislation have been introduced, including a bipartisan bill passed by the House last month that would bar government agencies from buying equipment groups deemed national security threats, such as Huawei.

 

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