Washington: The US has urged all countries to ensure that only “trusted vendors” participate in any part of their future 5G networks as the Trump administration stepped up its pressure against Chinese telecom giants, citing a potential security threat and possible misuse of data.
Asserting that 5G networks will form the backbone of future economies and critical infrastructure, State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the stakes are too high to allow these vital networks to be provided and serviced by vendors open to manipulation by authoritarian regimes.
“Chinese telecommunications firms such as Huawei and ZTE must comply with the directives of the government of the People’s Republic of China, without any meaningful checks and balances that would prevent misuse of data,” Ortagus said.
Allowing these vendors anywhere in a country’s 5G networks would present critical risks to the privacy, human rights and security of its citizens, she said.
“The United States urges all countries, including our partners and allies, to adopt national security policies that would prevent untrusted vendors from accessing any part of their future 5G networks,” Ortagus said.
5G is the next generation cellular technology with download speeds stated to be 10 to 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE networks.
The 5G networking standard is seen as critical because it can support the next generation of mobile devices in addition to new applications like driverless cars.
Ortagus said the US welcomed the European Union Council identifying the serious risks posed to 5G telecommunications networks if they are built using untrusted vendors.
“We welcome this acknowledgment and urge our European partners and allies to ensure only trusted vendors participate in any part of their future 5G networks,” Ortagus said.
The set of conclusions published on Tuesday affirmed that “non-technical factors such as the legal and policy framework to which suppliers may be subject to in third countries, should be considered,” she said.
Looking forward to the release of the EU’s 5G risk mitigation toolbox later this month, she hoped that its recommendations will include strong measures to address the risks identified in the statement and in the EU’s Risk Assessment published in October 2019.
The US pressure campaign against Huawei is motivated by fears in Washington that the company is a potential security threat due to founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei’s close ties with the Communist Party-led government. Ren is an ex- engineer of the People’s Liberation Army.
Huawei has repeatedly rejected the security accusations, saying the US government has provided no proof to support the claim.
In May, the Trump administration blocked American companies from doing business with Huawei, which US officials accuse of violating US sanctions on Iran.
Meanwhile, Senator David Perdue, Chairman of Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, in his address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank said that America’s relationship with China is at a tipping point.
“We have two options with China. One option is, we could slip into an arms race and a Cold War, which the world cannot afford. The second option is the question of the day: can we co-exist as two economic powers and compete and cooperate?” Purdue said.
“We need China and the United States to become a cooperative force in the world today. If we don’t, and if our allies don’t line up with that, it could turn into a very dark world over the next 50 years,” he said.
“If we think that we’re going to win the next arms race the way we won the last one by not firing a bullet and by outspending our adversary, I just don’t see that happening if it is ‘mano a mano.’ What we have to do is build up our number one asset, and that’s our allies around the world,” Perdue said.
When China’s Belt and Road Initiative becomes proprietary, the Senator said he got really concerned. “They have invested in over 30 ports in Africa, and 56 ports in Latin America, and I see what they’re doing in Central America, particularly in Panama and Venezuela.
China is making these proprietary loans, and we see the expansion of their interests,” he said.
“I have a hard time believing their port in Hambantota (in Sri Lanka) is just for trade when they foreclose on their lead partner, allowing them to potentially turn that port into a military port. It raises questions about what they were originally doing there,” Perdue said.