Lithuania blocks Chinese airport screening equipment

VILNIUS (AFP) - Nato member Lithuania has banned the use of airport security-screening equipment made by a Chinese company over national security concerns, officials said Friday (Jan 29).

The move came amid increased concern in the West over Chinese investments in critical infrastructure, including 5G telecommunications networks.

A government-appointed commission concluded that the equipment from China's Nuctech "does not meet national security interests," Ms Rasa Jakilaitiene, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, told AFP.

Ms Jakilaitiene declined to elaborate, saying that information provided by state agencies was classified.

Nuctech had been keen to bid for contracts for screening equipment at Lithuanian airports.

The Chinese embassy in Vilnius later on Friday said the decision to ban Nuctech was "clearly driven by political motives".

The US ambassador to Lithuania, Mr Robert Gilchrist said he welcomed "the step to protect Lithuania's national security and critical infrastructure."

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that US agencies were rallying European governments to exclude Nuctech from installing systems at airports across Europe.

The United States has also described another major Chinese technology company, 5G network maker Huawei, as a "threat to national security" and "beholden to the Chinese Communist Party".

These allegations have been denied by Huawei and Chinese diplomats.

EU member Lithuania is a staunch US ally in Nato and currently hosts a battalion of American troops as it seeks an even greater military presence as a bulwark against its neighbouring Soviet-era master Russia.

Mr Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of Parliament's national security and defence committee, said "investments and acquisitions in strategic sectors must meet the transatlantic security criteria".

"This decision shows that Lithuania decided not to be a part of technosphere created and controlled by China," he told AFP Friday.

Lithuania's intelligence agency warned in its annual report that "the active penetration of Chinese investments" posed the risk of "losing control over resources and infrastructure, market manipulation, and political influence."