American Senator Tom Cotton warned the Defence Select Committee that the UK’s decision to allow Huawei to build aspects of its 5G network “raises too great a risk for us to have that advanced aircraft in any nation with this system”, he said speaking of US F-35 deployments in the UK.
The Telegraph had earlier reported that Republican senators in the US were moving to block 48 US fighter jets being deployed to Britain over Huawei concerns after an amendment was tabled that would would bar F-35 deployment to countries where Huawei builds 5G network components.
Some members of the Defence Select Committee have also expressed concerns over the UK Government including Huawei equipment in the UK 5G network, with MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty-Hughes saying “handing over your 5G network to the Communist party of any country is utter insanity”.
I’m sure many of you will remember last year when Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked by then Prime Minister Theresa May over allegations of leaks from a National Security Council. According to those alleged leaks, Prime Minister Theresa May rejected the advice of senior ministers and agreed Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s ‘non-core’ 5G network.
Recently, Senator Tom Cotton discussed American objections further in a Defence Select Committee meeting on ‘The Security of 5G’ on the 2nd of June:
“Again, a lot of it goes back to signals intelligence and the sensitivity of sources and methods. Some of these things we can’t discuss in an open setting, but they are concerns that our intelligence professionals and our technical experts have raised about not just the
United Kingdom using Huawei, but any nation that uses Huawei technology.
I want to correct something that one of the Members said earlier about my legislation—that it would delay the deployment of F-35 fighters to the United Kingdom. It does not delay them specifically to the United Kingdom. It simply says that it raises too great a risk for us to have that advanced aircraft in any nation with this system. Obviously, the United
Kingdom is not the only nation that uses Huawei. We will have to face that threat in other ations that choose to use Huawei to build up their 5G network.”
Senator Cotton also expressed his hope that the UK ‘weans’ itself off of Huawei:
“Like our Government’s stated reaction in January, it disappointed me. I understand that you face a different kind of situation than do we, because of the legacy networks you have—the 3G and 4G networks—that use Huawei technology. I do hope that as the Government refines its decision, if it does not reverse it outright, it will mitigate it by
minimising the use of Huawei technology, putting it on a shorter timeframe, limiting the expansion of the 5G network and taking the steps we have done to help wean 4G and 3G networks off Huawei’s legacy technology.
I have seen media reports that suggest that could happen as early as 2023. I would welcome that—I would welcome you doing it even earlier. I am a bit mystified about why you would spend the money to build out a 5G network using one kind of technology only to tear it out three years later. But again, we will continue to observe and work with your
Government and the decisions they take to try to ensure that our alliance remains as strong as it always has been and that we are also creating the kinds of alternatives that Mr Francois and I were just discussing for the rest of the world.”
When asked if the Government changing tack and reducing Huawei involvement to zero by 2023 would be enough to mitigate his concerns he responded:
“It obviously would in 2023, but remember that many of my concerns are not specific to the United Kingdom. To go back to legislation that we discussed earlier about F-35 fighters, we have got to make a decision about deploying those to many different countries. Obviously, if you no longer have Huawei technology in your network, then F-35 fighters could be based in your country under my legislation. That does not mean that I would drop my legislation, because my legislation is not about the United Kingdom; it is about Huawei and the threat that Huawei poses to our airmen and our aircraft. But I would welcome that decision to go to zero by 2023, and I would urge you to try to do so even sooner.”