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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered Huawei equipment to be removed completely from Britain’s 5G network by the end of 2027. This has risked the anger of China by signalling the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker is not welcome in the West.
As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, growing fears about the security of Huawei have pushed Mr Johnson into choosing between global rivals the United States and China.
The Prime Minister had been under intense pressure from US President Donald Trump, while Beijing had warned London billions in investment would be at risk if it chose to side with Washington.
In January, it was decided Huawei could supply up to 35 percent of the non-core 5G network, however this decision has now been reversed.
Mr Johnson has banned British telecoms operators from buying any 5G equipment from Huawei by year-end and gave them seven years to rip out existing gear.
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Digital minister Oliver Dowden told parliament: “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run.
“By the time of the next election, we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.”
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China and the United States have been at loggerheads for years over trade, the South China Sea and territory – and this seems to have escalated in recent weeks.
Last week the US spoke of banning Chinese social media giant TikTok, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying: “We’re certainly looking at it,”
He adding the administration was taking the issue “very seriously.”
Mr Pompeo said: “With the respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right.”
In another statement, Mr Pompeo accused the Chinese Communist Party of using their naval dominance to bully other countries.
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He said: “We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.
“We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”
Huawei is also banned in the United States until at least May 2021, with an executive order from US President Donald Trump banning US companies from buying from or working with the company.
So Mr Johnson’s decision to remove the brand from UK soil could be seen as siding with the United States and his American counterpart.
Mr Trump’s national security adviser has praised Britain’s decision to remove Huawei from its 5G network.
Robert O’Brien, who is in Europe this week, said: “The reported UK action reflects a growing international consensus that Huawei and other untrusted vendors pose a threat to national security, as they remain beholden to the Chinese Communist Party.
“We look forward to working with the UK, as well as our many other partners and allies, to spur innovation, promote vendor diversity in the 5G supply chain, and ensure 5G security free from dangerous manipulations.”
Also quick to praise the decision was Mr Pompeo, who said the UK’s Huawei decision would protect “free-world values”.
Writing on Twitter Mr Pompeo spoke of protecting security as the world entered the “5G era”.
He tweeted: “Today’s decision by the UK to ban Huawei from its 5G networks advances trans-Atlantic security in the 5G era while protecting citizens’ privacy, national security, and free-world values.”
However, China’s ambassador to Britain said the decision to remove Huawei equipment out of the country’s 5G network was disappointing and wrong.
He said it called into question Britain’s openness to foreign investors.
Liu Xiaoming said on Twitter: “Disappointing and wrong decision by the UK on Huawei.
“It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries.”
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