US government warns allies about Huawei again

The US has told Hungary that America finds it ‘more difficult’ to partner with nations that have Huawei equipment deployed.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned central European nations that deploying telecommunications equipment from Huawei "makes it more difficult for America to be present" in those countries.

"We want to make sure we identify [to] them the opportunities and the risks of using that equipment," Pompeo told media in Budapest on Monday.

According to Huawei, its equipment currently helps provide coverage to around 70 percent of Hungarians.

"We have seen this all around the world; it also makes it more difficult for America to be present," Pompeo said, after announcing plans for a defence cooperation agreement with Hungary including the purchase of mid-range air defence capabilities.

"If that equipment is collocated where we have important American systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them."

During talks with Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, Pompeo said he discussed "the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead".

Pompeo is visiting Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland in what administration officials say is an attempt to make up for a lack of US engagement in central Europe. Poland is already considering a 5G ban on Huawei after arresting an employee of the Chinese networking giant and a former Polish security official last month on allegations of espionage.

Huawei has offered to construct a cybersecurity hub in Poland "if authorities accept this as a trusted solution", Reuters had reported Tonny Bao, Huawei Poland head, saying last week. Huawei is also willing to accept European government supervision, Reuters said.

Read also: Huawei warns bans will increase prices and put US behind in 5G race

The Italian government, however, has reportedly denied that it will ban Huawei and fellow Chinese networking company ZTE from its 5G rollouts.

"We have no intention of adopting any such initiatives," Italy's industry ministry said, according to Reuters.

"National security is a priority and if any critical issues emerged -- which to date have not -- the ministry would assess whether or not to take measures."

In Germany, Reuters said ministers have been meeting to discuss the possibility of a Huawei 5G ban after Angela Merkel last week set conditions for the company's participation in the nation's new mobile network, including guarantees from the company that it would not hand over information to the Chinese government.

Huawei was banned for 5G by the Australian government in August 2018 due to national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure, with South Korea's largest carrier also leaving Huawei off its vendor list, while the New York Times last month reported that Vodafone has also temporarily stopped buying Huawei equipment for its 5G core network.

In the US, Huawei is facing counts for conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA); violating the IEEPA; committing money laundering; and obstructing justice, while the indictment against CFO Meng Wanzhou claims that during meetings with an unnamed banking institution in the US, she misrepresented Huawei's ownership and control of Iranian affiliate Skycom, as well as its compliance with UN, US, and EU sanctions.

The company is also facing allegations in a separate indictment that it conspired to steal intellectual property from T-Mobile and subsequently obstructed justice. The alleged activity occurred during 2012-13, and relates to Huawei's attempt to build a robot similar to the one T-Mobile was using to test mobile phones.

BT says no evidence of security risk despite stripping Huawei from EE core

CNN has also reported that BT consumer CEO Marc Allera said the UK carrier has seen no evidence of Huawei posing a threat to security.

"Over the years that we've worked with Huawei, we've not yet seen anything that gives us cause for concern," Allera reportedly told CNN.

"We work closely with a large number of bodies, government and security. We continue to work with all of those relevant bodies to answer all the questions that are being asked right now."

This came despite BT in December saying it would be stripping Huawei equipment from mobile carrier EE's 3G and 4G core networks, and will not be using the Chinese technology giant for its 5G networks.

The telco at the time said it made the decision in order to bring EE in line with its legacy fixed network, which does not use Huawei technology.

"In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006," a BT spokesperson said.

"As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core."

Huawei agreed that the decision was "a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support", despite EE extending its 5G partnership with Huawei back in February 2018.

Last week, Huawei also reportedly said it would take three to five years and a $2 billion investment to resolve the security issues found in a British report last year.

"It is a complicated and involved process, and will take at least three to five years to see tangible results. We hope the UK government can understand this," CEO of the Huawei carrier business group Ryan Ding told the UK Parliament's Science and Technology Select Committee in a letter last week, according to Reuters.

The report from the UK government's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was published in July last year, finding two low-priority national security findings and two advisory issues in its annual evaluation of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre.

The oversight board identified "technical issues" in Huawei's engineering processes, which it said could cause "new risks in the UK telecommunications networks". Four products were then found by the NCSC to be lacking binary equivalence, while an additional issue was found in Huawei's use of commercial and open-source third-party components, with not all being managed through the agreed process.

The oversight board additionally pointed out medium-term concerns for incoming technologies, including software-defined networking, network virtualisation, edge computing, and 5G.

With AAP

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