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US calls for cautious EU policy on 5G networks

The United States on Thursday urged "like-minded governments" from the European Union to be cautious and coordinate their policies on 5G network security in light of suspicions over the system proposed by Chinese giant Huawei.

A picture shows the Huawei logo and signage at their main UK offices in Reading, west of London, on April 29, 2019. – British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged caution over the role of China’s Huawei in the UK, saying the government should think carefully before opening its doors to the technology giant to develop next-generation 5G mobile networks. His comments come after Prime Minister Theresa May conditionally allowed China’s Huawei to build the UK 5G network, information that was leaked to a newspaper from top secret discussions between senior ministers and security officials, a leak that has caused a scandal that has rocked Britain’s splintered government. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

The United States on Thursday urged “like-minded governments” from the European Union to be cautious and coordinate their policies on 5G network security in light of suspicions over the system proposed by Chinese giant Huawei.

“Only with the leadership of like-minded countries we’ll be able to develop and deploy and manage secure and reliable 5G communications infrastructures,” said Joshua Steinman, a special cybersecurity assistant to US President Donald Trump.

Speaking at a conference in Prague organised by the Czech government, he singled out national security as “a mandatory criterion in evaluating suppliers of information and communication technologies, products and services.”

“We hope that like-minded governments will avoid committing to any one system or vendor until they’re able to properly vet and compare available technologies and fully assess risks across the life cycle of 5G network installation and operation,” said Steinman.

The United States has banned government agencies from buying equipment from Huawei over fears Beijing could spy on communications and gain access to critical infrastructure if the firm is allowed to develop foreign 5G networks offering instantaneous mobile data transfer.

Washington is adamantly opposed to Huawei’s involvement because of its obligation under Chinese law to help Beijing gather intelligence or provide other security services.

Steinman was echoed by Julian King, an EU commissioner in charge of the Security Union, who spoke in a video message screened at the conference.

“There is an urgent need for coordinated action when it comes to protecting our critical digital infrastructure, especially in the case of 5G networks which represent a technological tipping point of potentially profound significance,” King said.

“National decisions need to be coordinated because they have European-wide implications,” he added while insisting that his recommendations were not “targeted at any one company or any one country.”

In December, the Czech Republic’s National Cyber and Information Security Agency warned against using Huawei software and hardware, saying they posed a threat to state security.

However, the EU member’s pro-Russian, pro-Chinese president Milos Zeman met a Huawei official in Beijing last week to express his solidarity with the telecoms giant.

“The campaign against Huawei is not backed by any material evidence,” Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said in a statement, adding that the Czech president hoped Huawei would participate in the digitalisation of the Czech Republic, including its 5G networks.

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