We can do this the easy way or the Huawei, US tells Germany with threat to snip intel over 5G fears

Tough talk as calls for evidence of China naughtiness grow

Uncle Sam has reportedly threatened Germany with a reduction in intelligence sharing if it allows Huawei equipment to be installed on its 5G networks.

This comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month warned that America would cut off its allies from hush-hush secrets if they dared deploy Huawei gear in core communications systems.

This latest threat was made by Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, writing to economics minister Peter Altmaier, according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

While the US embassy in Berlin would not confirm that a message was sent, the German Federal Economics Ministry did tell the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ – auf deutsch) that the letter had been received and would be "answered promptly".

A US embassy spokesman was quoted as saying "in cases where an untrusted provider operates in an allied data network, issues would be raised in order to maintain confidentiality and secure sensitive messages transmitted between the United States and that ally". The newspaper added: "Further, the spokesman said that if such weaknesses exist, it could endanger the close cooperation and joint action of the security services."

No evidence of a direct threat to security posed by Huawei was offered in either report of Grenell's letter. Nonetheless, the company can still be compelled to do the bidding of Communist China's state officials, a legal position largely reflected in most Western countries.

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In February, Germany publicly snubbed US efforts to impose a worldwide ban on Huawei. While some might speculate that the 2015 hacking of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone by American spies from the NSA is still raw, it represented the second time in months that Germany had pushed back against American attempts to strong-arm allies into supporting its stance. In December last year, Germany's top cybersecurity official said his Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) had "no reliable evidence" of a risk from Huawei, telling venerable German glossy news weekly Der Spiegel: "For such serious decisions such as a ban, you need evidence."

For its part, the Chinese firm recently said that it didn't care if it got locked out of certain markets, although it also taunted the US by opening a lobbying-cum-code-testing office in Brussels and declaring that it sees the global reach of the bloc's General Data Protection Regulation as a model to follow for future cybersecurity laws.

If there's one thing the US fears, it's a world order where American interests come second to anyone else's. While unthinkable in Europe 30 years ago, that day may not be so far away now. ®

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