Britain on Tuesday announced it has banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G telecom network, a sharp policy shift that angered Beijing and was seen as a win for the Trump administration, which has argued that the company threatens national security.
Reversing a stance announced in January to allow Huawei a limited role in building the UK's super-fast wireless infrastructure, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons that U.S. sanctions on the company had altered the calculation for the government, which he said is "clear-eyed about China."
“We have been clear-eyed from the start that Chinese-owned vendors Huawei and ZTE were deemed to be high-risk," he said.
“Put simply, countries around the world – not just in the United Kingdom – have become dangerously reliant on too few vendors,” said Dowden.
"This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run," he added.
British telecom operators have been given until 2027 to remove existing Huawei equipment from their 5G networks and the changes would cost about £2bn ($2.5 billion) and delay the country's 5G rollout by a year, Dowden told parliament.
Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the UK, who had issued public threats during the debate over Huawei, tweeted that London's decision was "disappointing and wrong."
"It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries," he tweeted. Liu had earlier warned that the UK would face unspecified “consequences” if it treats China as a “hostile partner”.
In Washington, however, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed the news.
"With this decision, the UK joins a growing list of countries from around the world that are standing up for their national security by prohibiting the use of untrusted, high-risk vendors," he said in a statement.
"Countries need to be able to trust that 5G equipment and software will not threaten national security, economic security, privacy, intellectual property, or human rights," said Pompeo.
Huawei denies U.S. assertions that the firm poses a national security threat.
The 5G decision marks the second time in two weeks that Britain has angered China with a policy shift.
After China imposed a draconian new security law for Hong Kong on July 30, the U.K. announced it would extend residency rights and offer a pathway to citizenship for about 2.9 million of the former British colony's seven million residents. So-called British National (Overseas) passport holders were born in the city before the July 1, 1997 handover and are British nationals by birth, but without the right of abode in the UK
China threatened "corresponding measures" and accused Britain of interfering in Hong Kong's and China's affairs.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on July 1 that imposition of the law was a “clear and serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the 1984 treaty under which China promised Hong Kong could run its own affairs and enjoy its traditional freedoms of speech and association for at least 50 years after the handover.