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US warns Germany over Huawei contracts

March 11, 2019

The US has sent the German Economy Ministry a letter warning of the risks posed by using "untrusted vendors" in its 5G network. The letter comes amid tensions between Chinese telecom giant Huawei and the US.

China Huawei 5G Network
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Z. Min

The United States on Monday warned Germany that sensitive communications could be compromised if "untrusted vendors" were used within its 5G telecom infrastructure, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

US Ambassador Richard A. Grenell wrote to German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on Friday, saying the participation of Huawei or other Chinese equipment vendors in the 5G project would mean the "US won't be able to maintain the same level of cooperation with German security agencies," WSJ reported.

Read more: Germany's 5G: The bidders — and what's involved

"To the extent there are untrusted vendors in the networks of an ally, that could raise future questions about the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive communications within that country, as well as between that country and its allies," a US embassy spokesman said.

"This could in the future jeopardize nimble cooperation and some sharing of information. We are engaging intensively with our allies on how to secure our telecommunications networks to ensure continued interoperability," he added.

Huawei recently filed a lawsuit against the US government for labeling it a security risk and limiting its access to the American market.

Ministry confirms letter delivered

The German Economy Ministry confirmed that the letter had been received.

Altmaier told French news agency AFP he could not comment on the letter's contents, but said that: "We will respond quickly."

Read more: Using Huawei technology is a matter of faith

During an appearance on a ZDF television talk show on Thursday, Altmaier said that Germany did not want to ban Huawei but would change its laws to guarantee all components used in the 5G networks are secure.

The legal amendments are still being finalized within Germany's ruling coalition, a ministry spokesman said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has previously said it was necessary to talk to Beijing "to make sure that the company does not simply give up all data that is used to the Chinese state, but that there are safeguards."

EU reliance on US intelligence

The US and several other Western nationsseveral other Western nations have shut Huawei out of tenders for the development of the newest 5G infrastructure over security concerns.

US intelligence provided by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy services has given Germany, as well as EU countries, information on terror and other threats.

Read more: ZTE, Huawei bans: Genuine security concerns or part of China trade spat?

The battle with Huawei is just one of a number of conflicts to have escalated between the US and Chine in recent months.

The US and China spent most of 2018 slapping tit-for-tat import tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other's goods, and in December Huawei's chief financial officer was arrested in Canada at the request of the US.

law/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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