United States is stepping up pressure on Huawei and ZTE, China-based telecom equipment suppliers, revealing why telecom operators should ban them.
The United States fears China could use the telecom equipment of Huawei, which is used widely in mobile networks, for espionage.
A US official feels that there is evidence of intelligence work by Huawei or its rival ZTE. The US official said American alarm stemmed more from China’s status as a one-party state, a series of Chinese laws approved in 2017, and counter-terrorism legislation.
The US State Department Official cited language in the National Intelligence Law that directs individuals and companies to aid China’s intelligence-gathering and keep such work secret, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The official pointed to vulnerabilities found in older networks built by Huawei in Britain, even when they were monitored by a laboratory overseen by British intelligence. UK has already indicated that Huawei will be blocked from selling 5G network to local operators in coming months.
Nick Read, the CEO of Vodafone Group of UK, earlier said it will be too costly for removing Huawei from the network of European mobile operators. Vodafone has already paused the Huawei equipment from its core network.
The United States sees the European Union as its top priority in an effort to convince allies not to buy Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks.
Several US officials met the European Commission and the Belgian government in Brussels to explain that the world’s biggest telecommunications gear maker poses a security risk, said the official.
Washington is using multiple tracks, including talks at the US-led NATO alliance in Brussels and at international conferences in Barcelona and Munich. GSMA, the telecom industry body, will discuss the Huawei issue during Mobile World Congress (MWC 2019) in Barcelona this month.
While Washington has barred Huawei from supplying its government and contractors, it sees advanced European preparations for 5G networks as a security risk that could endanger the United States.
“Going with an untrusted supplier like Huawei or ZTE will have all sorts of ramifications for your national security and … since we are military allies with almost all members of the European Union, on our national security as well,” the official said.
Many members of Congress view ZTE and Huawei as national security threats, worrying that the use of their technologies in the United States could make it easier for China to steal secrets.
A group of senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would re-impose sanctions on ZTE if the Chinese telecommunications firm fails to live up to U.S. laws and an agreement with the Donald Trump administration.
U.S. President Donald Trump angered many members of Congress, including some of his fellow Republicans, in July 2018 when he decided to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE, allowing the Chinese company to resume business.
ZTE broke a previous agreement and was caught illegally shipping U.S.-origin goods to Iran and North Korea, Commerce Department officials said. ZTE pleaded guilty last year over the sanctions violations. ZTE lost considerable business in two quarters and paid more than billion dollar towards penalty.
Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Susan Collins and Jerry Moran sponsored the legislation along with Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren and Doug Jones.
This is the second time lawmakers have introduced a bill on ZTE and sanctions. The previous bill, introduced in September, expired as the previous Congressional session ended.
Reuters reported on Jan. 30 the European Commission, the EU executive, was considering proposals that would ban Huawei from 5G networks.