China suggests Trump use Huawei phone to avoid spying

BEIJING • China dismissed as "fake news" a New York Times report that the country's spies, along with those of Russia, eavesdrop on calls US President Donald Trump makes on unsecured iPhones.

While Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying did not directly address the snooping allegations, she told a briefing yesterday that "certain people in the US are sparing no efforts to win the best screenplay award for the Oscars".

The Times reported on Wednesday that Mr Trump had disregarded warnings from his aides that China and Russia were monitoring his conversations.

"This just provides more evidence of the New York Times creating fake news," Ms Hua said in Beijing, borrowing a favourite Trump line.

She then offered a pointed pitch for Huawei Technologies, the Chinese phone maker which has been shunned by the US government over security concerns. "If there are concerns about Apple calls being listened-in on, then you can change to Huawei phones," Ms Hua said.

Mr Trump uses his iPhones to speak to "old friends", and domestic spy agencies have determined China is seeking to use information from the calls to keep a trade war with the US from escalating, the Times said, citing unidentified current and former US officials.

The agencies were said to have learned of the eavesdropping from people inside foreign governments and through intercepting communications between foreign officials, the report said.

The Chinese have pieced together a list of people, including Blackstone Group chief Stephen Schwarzman and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, whom Mr Trump regularly speaks to in hopes of using them to influence the President, according to the report.

Russia's operation is believed to be less sophisticated because of his "apparent affinity" for President Vladimir Putin, a former official is cited as saying. "We already treat such publications with humour," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, while not directly denying the report.

Mr Trump yesterday denied the report that he often calls friends to gripe or solicit advice on his unsecure iPhones.

"The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it," Mr Trump said in a predawn tweet.

BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'China suggests Trump use Huawei phone to avoid spying'. Print Edition | Subscribe