Monday, 29 April 2019 05:53

China envoy urges UK to act 'independently' on 5G suppliers Featured

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China envoy urges UK to act 'independently' on 5G suppliers Pixabay

China's ambassador to the UK has called on the British Government to make "the right decision independently" while choosing equipment suppliers for 5G networks and ignore any external pressure to ban Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies.

In an op-ed in the Sunday Telegraph, Liu Xiaoming said that Britain had global influence and should make its decisions in keeping with its national interests.

He wrote: “When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development.”

Liu's comments are the first official reaction from Beijing after last week's report that British Prime Minister Theresa May had reportedly agreed to let Huawei play a role in the rollout of 5G networks in the UK.

The story was based on a leak from the National Security Council and said it had been decided that the Chinese company could contribute antennas and other infrastructure that are not considered to be part of the core network.

It also said that five ministers — Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt — had raised concerns about Huawei.

Liu said that concerns over 5G were not misplaced due to the technology being new.

“The risks should be taken seriously but risks must not be allowed to incite fear. They can be managed, provided countries and companies work together,” he wrote.

“Huawei has had a good track record on security over the years, having taken the initiative to invest in a Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which employs an all-British monitoring team. The company has been working hard to improve its technology and to enhance the security and reliability of its equipment.”

In a related development, Reuters reported that Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had assured Huawei that it would not face any discrimination when it came to rolling out 5G networks in his country.

During a visit to China, where he said he had met Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei, Conte said in remarks reported by Sky Italia: "I told him that we have adopted some precautions, some measures to protect our interests that demand very high levels of security... not only from Huawei, but any company entering into the 5G arena."

For a number of years, the US has been trying to convince countries it considers allies to avoid using equipment from Chinese companies, Huawei foremost, in 5G networks. But Washington has produced no proof to back up its claims that these products could be used to spy for China.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with the American dictates, but Wellington has indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. That stance was reiterated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a one-day China visit in April.

Earlier this month, Spark Corporate Relations lead Andrew Pirie said the company was still working through what possible mitigations it might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the General Communications Security Bureau, the country's main spy agency.

Huawei sued the US on 7 March, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

Also this month, the technical director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, Dr Ian Levy, slammed Huawei for its engineering practices, which he characterised as "very, very shoddy".

He told the BBC's Panorama program he had yet to be convinced that a remedial program, promised by Huawei to sort out issues that were identified last year, was going to be effective.

Huawei has set up a cyber lab in the UK, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre. The HCSEC opened in November 2010 and aims to mitigate any perceived risks arising from the use of Huawei equipment in parts of the UK critical national infrastructure. The centre provides security evaluation for a range of products used in the UK telecommunications market.

In March, a report from the HCSEC Oversight Board found "concerning issues" in the company's approach to software development, significantly increasing risk to operators and needing ongoing management and mitigation.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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