Britain must protect critical infrastructure from ‘hostile vendors’

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, Britain, June 30, 2020. Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Britain needed to protect its critical national infrastructure from “hostile state vendors” when deciding what role China’s Huawei should play in the country’s 5G network.

Britain is taking a tougher stance on China because of a crackdown in Hong Kong and intense pressure from the United States to ban Huawei from its 5G network. Huawei was granted a limited role in Britain’s 5G network in January.

Asked if China’s new security law would influence Britain’s decision on whether or not to restrict Huawei’s role in the 5G network, Johnson said: “I’m not going to get drawn into Sinophobia because I’m not a Sinophobe.”

“On Huawei, the position is very, very simple,” Johnson told reporters. “I do want to see our critical national infrastructure properly protected from hostile state vendors, so we need to strike that balance and that’s what we’ll do.”

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has studied the impact of U.S. measures announced in May, which are intended to restrict Huawei’s ability to source the advanced microchips needed to produce its 5G equipment and flagship smartphones.

Britain designated Huawei a “high-risk vendor” in January, capping its 5G involvement at a 35% market share and excluding it from the data-heavy core of the network.

Johnson said he was deeply concerned by China’s decision to pass national security legislation in Hong Kong.

“We are obviously deeply concerned about the decision to pass the National Security Law in Beijing as it affects Hong Kong,” he said after a speech on how to rebuild Britain after COVID-19.

“We will be looking at the law very carefully, we want to scrutinise it properly, to understand whether it’s in conflict with the joint declaration between the UK and China.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul Sandle; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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