Europe

US issues stern warning to UK as trade talks with Trump could sour over key security issue

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Republican Senator Tom Cotton cautioned Britain on Wednesday that a decision to allow China’s Huawei a role in 5G networks could hurt military cooperation and be an issue in trade talks. “It may impose some limitations on our technical ability to share certain kinds of sources or method, or for instance, our professionals tell us our airmen and our most advanced aircraft might be at risk in a country whose network uses Huawei,” Cotton told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

Asked directly if Huawei could be included in discussions about a UK-US trade deal, he said: “That’s possible.”

“It is inevitable that it will have to be a part of at least some trade and economic discussion,” he said.

The Arkansas Senator also warned the Defence Committee of the House of Commons that China is Huawei to drive a wedge between the historic allies.

Mr Cotton warned: “It is my hope that the special relationship remains strong although I fear China is attempting to drive a hi-tech wedge between us using Huawei.

Washington has warned allies they risk being cut off from intelligence sharing programmes if they make deals with Huawei.

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said: “It’s clear that market position, rather than security concerns, is what underpins America’s attack on Huawei.

“The committee was given no evidence to substantiate security allegations.”

Britain has said Huawei’s involvement will be limited to 35 percent and it will be excluded from the sensitive core.

In recent weeks, reports have said that Boris Johnson is looking to reduce Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network to zero by 2023.

The US has long warned other nations that Huawei is unsafe.

Mr Cotton said: “I do hope that as the government refines its decision, that if it doesn’t reverse it outright, it will mitigate it and minimise the use of Huawei technology, put it on a shorter time frame.”

Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei told CNBC: “We never participate in espionage, and we do not allow any of our employees to do any act like that.

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“And we absolutely never install backdoors.

“Even if we were required by Chinese law, we would firmly reject that.”

Despite Huawei’s denials, some experts point to article 7 of the former which mandates any organisation or individual “shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law”.

The original approval for Huawei to form part of the British 5G network came from former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Gavin Williamson was sacked as Defence Secretary as Mrs May believed he was the source of the leak regarding Huawei’s involvement.

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