Briefing: Top UK official defends Huawei’s bid for 5G

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Ciaran Martin’s CyberSec speech in Brussels– UK Cyber Security Centre

What happened: Ciaran Martin, Director General of Cyber security for Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, defended Huawei’s bid to develop 5G networks. In a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, he confirmed an anonymous report published in the Financial Times earlier this week, saying that UK authorities have been mitigating potential threats to networks from Huawei for 15 years and that their regime is “arguably the toughest” in the world. He added that this is a question of setting a national standard, and not indicative of hostile activity from China.

Why it’s important: The US is trying to push Huawei out of the race for 5G, claiming that its links to Beijing pose national security risks. Some governments are convinced, others remain doubtful. New Zealand is carrying out an independent assessment, whereas German authorities released a preliminary ruling in favor of Huawei on Tuesday. The UK and New Zealand rulings could sway other countries because they are privy to sensitive US intelligence as members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. The Chinese tech giant is a key element in the US-China trade talks, and it is unclear how its 5G stake will affect the negotiations. Earlier this week Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, said the firm would not carry out espionage, even if it meant defying Chinese law.