NATO is weighing up whether to take action in response to security concerns about Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei amid US concerns over the company’s relationship with Beijing, the head of the military alliance said.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said some of the US-led alliance’s 29 members were concerned about the possible role of Huawei in the new 5G communications infrastructure.
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“NATO takes these concerns very seriously,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the press conference which was called to mark the release of the NATO chief’s annual report.
“We are now consulting closely on this issue, including on the security aspects on investments in 5G networks,” he added.
Stoltenberg’s comments come amid a ramped-up effort by Washington to lobby its allies to shun Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, as they upgrade to next-generation 5G mobile networks.
This upgrade to the existing 4G systems is expected to deliver enhanced speed and security to mobile internet users, enabling near-instantaneous connectivity, wider coverage and new types of machine-to-machine communication.
Most countries are unlikely to roll out the technology before 2020, according to a recent study by the US-based Eurasia Group consultancy firm, but China is pushing ahead with efforts to launch it this year.
Europe mulls Huawei action
US President Donald Trump‘s administration has attempted to persuade its allies against using Huawei and other Chinese vendors in the development of new 5G infrastructure, suggesting they are subject to a National Intelligence Law that requires the country’s organisations and citizens to collaborate in espionage efforts by Beijing.
Last August, Trump signed a bill barring government agencies from using certain telecommunications and surveillance products from Chinese suppliers, including Huawei.
Huawei, which has repeatedly denied allegations it is involved in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government, announced last week it was suing the US over the ban, arguing the move was “unlawful” and restricted it from “engaging in fair competition”.
But the US’s European allies, including the UK, have so far stopped short of rolling out bans.
On Wednesday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned against excluding the company from participating in the construction of the country’s 5G network, saying such a move “would leave a mark on economic development”.
Seehofer’s comments came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would consult Washington over using Huawei’s technology.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported Washington told Germany it would share less intelligence with its security agencies if the country’s wireless network uses Huawei to upgrade to 5G.