UK Huawei decision to be based on security

Justice minister Robert Buckland (L) says security will determine Britain's Huawei 5G decision.
Justice minister Robert Buckland (L) says security will determine Britain's Huawei 5G decision.

Justice minister Robert Buckland says Britain will place a "huge priority" on national security when considering Chinese telecoms firm Huawei's role in the country's 5G network.

"National security comes first ... and I know that the NSC (National Security Council) and the whole of government will be placing a huge priority on our national security," he said on Monday on BBC radio.

An announcement on Huawei's role would be made "as soon as practicable", he said.

Britain's relationship with China must be honest if it is to survive, Buckland told LBC radio when asked about Hong Kong, Huawei and the future of Chinese investment in British infrastructure.

"I would say that it's a relationship that if it is to endure, has to be one that is honest, and I think we are providing honesty and frankness when it comes to important issues like Hong Kong," Buckland said.

"We will continue to be robust and frank with China, where we think that they have overstepped the mark."

Meanwhile, BT CEO Philip Jansen has urged the British government not to move too fast to ban Huawei from the 5G network, cautioning there might be outages and even security issues if it did.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to decide this week whether to impose tougher restrictions on Huawei, after intense pressure from the United States to ban the Chinese behemoth from Western 5G networks.

Johnson in January defied President Donald Trump and granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network, but the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus crisis and a row over Hong Kong has changed the mood in London.

"If you are to try not to have Huawei at all, ideally we would want seven years and we could probably do it in five," Jansen told BBC radio.

In what some have compared to the Cold War antagonism with the Soviet Union, the US is worried 5G dominance is a milestone towards Chinese technological supremacy which could define the geopolitics of the 21st century.

Washington says Huawei is an agent of the Chinese Communist State and cannot be trusted.

Australian Associated Press