U.S. Is Said to Consider Reaction If Allies Partner With Huawei

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. may respond if an allied country ignores warnings against partnering with Chinese telecom equipment makers like Huawei Technologies Co., a U.S. State Department official said as Washington increases pressure on European partners.

Due to the close connections between the U.S. and its allies, especially those in NATO, a military emergency could force both sides to communicate over a Huawei system, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The U.S. is not at a stage where it could outline what ramifications would follow, the person said, but added that Washington is continuing to urge its allies not to sign contracts with certain Chinese suppliers.

The comments come as the U.S. continues to push allies in Europe and elsewhere to shun using Huawei or other Chinese equipment in commercial systems as the countries prepare to roll out the next generation of network technology, known as 5G. The U.S. official said he and his colleagues have met and will meet over the coming weeks with officials in European capitals, including Brussels, Paris and Berlin, as well as with European Commission officials and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

The European Union’s digital chief in January urged the bloc’s member states to consider the risk of partnering with Huawei and other Chinese companies. He said China’s National Intelligence Law, passed in 2017, has increased the risk in dealing with them. The law mandates any organization and citizen to support and assist national intelligence in their investigations and to keep information related to such investigations.

Huawei has rejected allegations that it is an enabler for Chinese espionage, and has said that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt new high-speed technology

Huawei has previously said it had commissioned a legal opinion to analyze the consequences of the law. The opinion says the law doesn’t require it to cooperate with state intelligence if it would contradict the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organizations, a spokesman said.

The U.S. official pointed to the National Intelligence and other recent Chinese laws as grounds for the U.S. concern, adding that individuals or companies don’t have recourse to resist any requests from the state.

The Chinese Mission to the EU has previously said it was opposed to such interpretations of Chinese laws and that such rules “never give any institution the mandate to force companies to build ‘mandatory back doors.’ Such actions have never happened.”

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