AMERICA has threatened to stop sharing top-secret intelligence with Britain if it allows Huawei to build its 5G mobile phone network.
Robert Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for cyber at the State Department, said there was no safe way to work with a company “that could be under the control of an authoritarian government”.
He claimed China could order Huawei to help it carry out cyber attacks and steal Brits’ identities if it is given permission to work on new hi-tech phone lines.
It is another blow to the Prime Minister after news leaked last week that the National Security Council had given the green light for the firm’s involvement in “non-core” parts of the 5G network, despite objections from several Cabinet ministers.
A string of senior MPs said the risk of Chinese espionage was too high, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there must be a “degree of caution” because Chinese firms are forced by law to work with their intelligence services.
Yesterday Mr Strayer – in charge of cybersecurity relations with other countries for US President Donald Trump – said it was dangerous to allow an “untrustworthy” firm into any part of the communications network because of the risk of espionage or sabotage.
“It is our position in the United States that there is no way that we can effectively mitigate the risk to having an untrustworthy vendor in the edge of the network,” he said in a press briefing.
“No part of the 5G network should have parts or software coming from a vendor that could be under the control of an authoritarian government.”
He went on: “What we really have here is a loaded gun. It is something Western democracies who value human rights should think very carefully about if they want to give that to an authoritarian regime with very different values about the uses of data.
“If other countries allow untrusted vendors to build out and become the vendors for their 5G networks we will have to reassess the ability for us to share information and be interconnected with them in the ways that we are today.”
However the Government is confident there will be no risk of China being able to spy on the UK through 5G.
The technology will give the public quicker access to the internet on mobile phones – but it will not be used by Britain’s intelligence agencies, which have their own strictly controlled, top-security networks.
A source told The Sun: “Intelligence is never shared over unprotected public networks, and that won’t change in 5G.”