Angela Merkel speaks during official trip to Japan

Merkel lays out security conditions for Huawei over Germany’s 5G network

Image credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has set out the conditions that Huawei Technologies and other companies should fulfil in order to be permitted to participate in the construction of Germany’s next-generation 5G network.

Shenzhen-based Huawei – the largest telecommunications company in the world – is increasingly being seen as a cause for concern among US allies due to fears that it could assist the Chinese government in surveillance (given that Chinese companies are required by law to cooperate with that country’s intelligence services) and a series of indictments by US prosecutors for bank fraud, violations of sanctions and trade theft.

Speaking to students at Keio University in Tokyo during an official visit to Japan, Merkel acknowledged that Germans were engaged in a “big debate” about the use of Huawei equipment in the country.

It is necessary to speak to the Chinese government to ensure that the company “does not simply give up all data that is used to the Chinese state, but that there are safeguards [so that] when you are working in Germany, that the Chinese state cannot access the data on all Chinese products,” she said.

“This will continue to be debated and discussed and it is also part of the discussion with the United States,” Merkel said.

So far, Germay has not joined other countries – including US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Czech Republic – in excluding Huawei from critical public projects. However, it was reported recently that EU lawmakers were considering amending legislation to introduce a de facto ban on Huawei and similar companies from participating in the building of next-generation 5G infrastructure.

Elsewhere on the continent, Norway – which is not a full member of the EU – has become embroiled in its own spat with Huawei, after the Norweigan intelligence agency stated in its annual threat assessment report that China and Russia posed the biggest security threats. The Chinese Embassy in Oslo rejected the claims as “very ridiculous”.

“One has to be attentive about Huawei as an actor and about the close connections between a commercial actor, like Huawei and the Chinese regime,” said Benedicte Bjornland, head of Norway’s domestic intelligence unit. “An actor like Huawei could be subject to influence from its home country as long as China has an intelligence law that requires private individuals, entities and companies to cooperate with China.”

Huawei Technologies has denied all allegations of espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

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