An engineer for Huawei probed an Apple supplier for information on its latest smartwatch as part of the Chinese tech giant's alleged plan to steal Cupertino's trade secrets, a report claims.
According to The Information, which cited unnamed sources, Huawei has approached suppliers and even Foxconn assembly line workers, for information on parts used in Apple products, from Apple Watch heart-rate monitors to connector cables in the MacBook Pro.
Apple's current and former employees say it is part of a slew of tactics that Huawei has employed to obtain technology from rivals, especially via its suppliers in China.
A Huawei spokesman denied the alleged report by The Information, while Apple did not provide comment.
In January, the US Justice Department unsealed an indictment accusing Huawei of pilfering trade secrets from wireless carrier T-Mobile. The indictment said Huawei had a formal program that rewarded employees for stealing information, with scaling bonuses based on the information's confidential value.
The report also said Huawei employees posted what was obtained at an internal company website and were assured they would not be punished for such action.
The allegations of trade theft have come amid an escalating row between the US and China. The US has charged the Chinese telecom giant with conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice, and IP theft after the company CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December for alleged money laundering and other crimes.
China has denied the claims and has said the arrest of Meng and the charges were politically motivated.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week warned the country's allies on using Huawei equipment as it would make it more difficult to partner with them.
The founder of Chinese telecom giant Ren Zhengfei had said there was "no way the US can crush" the company in his first broadcast interview that followed his daughter's arrest.
Meng has since posted bail and is awaiting a hearing scheduled for March 6 while US has formally requested extradition.
"There's no way the US can crush us. The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit," Ren said in an interview with the BBC.
"Even if they [US] persuade more countries not use us temporarily, we can always downsize and become smaller," he added.
The Huawei founder was also critical of the US.
"Firstly, I object to what the US has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable. The US likes to sanction others, whenever there's an issue, they'll use such combative methods. We object to this. But now that we've gone down this path, we'll let the courts settle it," he said.
"If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn't represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world."
Ren also said if the US "doesn't trust us", the company will shift its investment from the US to the UK at an even bigger scale.
The founder also reiterated that it won't allow installations of backdoors by Huawei or the Chinese government. Ren has previously denied that the company had links to the Chinese government.
The US has told Hungary that America finds it 'more difficult' to partner with nations that have Huawei equipment deployed.
New Zealand's prime minister won't rule out that Huawei tech could still be used in an internet upgrade across her country if unnamed risks can be mitigated.
Security concerns found by the UK government last year will take between three and five years to resolve, Huawei has reportedly said, while it also awaits European decisions on whether it can take part in 5G deployments.
Huawei has pointed to its 'unblemished record of cybersecurity' following reports over the weekend that it helped the Chinese government gain access codes for a foreign network.
Australian telco says the lack of a clear upgrade path to 5G will see it end its network rollout.