UK-China ties strong but Britain has concerns about 'significant and widespread' Chinese cyber intrusion

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Britain it needed to change its attitude towards China and Huawei.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Britain it needed to change its attitude towards China and Huawei.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS, NYTIMES) - Britain has a strong relationship with China but has expressed concerns about its "significant and widespread" cyber intrusion, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said on Thursday (May 9), after the United States warned London that it should rethink its approach.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Britain it needed to change its attitude towards China and Huawei, casting the world's second-largest economy as a threat to the West similar to that once posed by the Soviet Union.

"We have a strong relationship with China in many areas but there are several areas where we have expressed our concerns about China's behaviour and that includes significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the UK and our allies," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters.

Ahead of an announcement on whether to allow Huawei a role in building the national 5G network, the spokesman said that if any national security concerns arose, the risks would be assessed by the government.

He added that the government had been clear it would "not countenance high risk vendors in those parts of the UK's 5G network that perform critical security functions".

Speaking in London at the 40th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's first election victory, Mr Pompeo argued that China posed such a range of economic and security threats that the world now faced "a new kind of challenge, an authoritarian regime that's integrated economically into the West".

He said: "China steals intellectual property for military purposes. It wants to dominate AI (artificial intelligence), space technology, ballistic missiles and many other areas."

 
 
 
 

The question on the table in Britain is whether the government should allow Huawei, a Chinese company considered a security risk by the US, to help build some of the next-generation, 5G mobile network in Britain.

British officials believe it is possible to give Huawei some access to non-core elements of its new 5G system while maintaining the security of more sensitive networks.

Discussions on that topic were the subject of a leak that last week prompted the firing of British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who had opposed working with the Chinese firm.

Huawei denies it is a security risk.

The US has warned several governments around Europe against working with Huawei, and the topic has become increasingly touchy as countries decide on how to build their 5G networks.