Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the United States to lead an international alliance to build a 5G telecommunications network overcoming the West’s dependence on China. “The government has approached Washington about a ‘D10’ club of democratic partners, based on the G7 plus Australia, South Korea and India,” British newspaper The Times reported Friday. 

Prime Minister Johnson’s plea came days after his government ordered an intelligence review into the role of China in the country’s infrastructure. The UK wants to reduce China’s footprint in British telecommunications and other strategic sectors. “The Prime Minister has instructed officials to draw up plans that would reduce China’s involvement in the UK’s infrastructure to zero by 2023,” British newspaper The Telegraph reported last week. 

Prime Minister Johnson had previously agreed to allow Chinese technology company Huawei to participate in developing the 5G network in the UK. Huawei currently dominates the global race in 5G technologies, the next generation of mobile communication. The 5G network, once rolled out, will not only run personal mobile devices or self-driven cars but could also control industrial robotics, traffic flows, power plants, and military infrastructure. 

London-based The Times reported PM Johnson’s push to a U.S.-led alliance in 5G: 

Britain is seeking to forge an alliance of ten democracies to create alternative suppliers of 5G equipment and other technologies to avoid relying on China.

New concerns about Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, have increased the urgency of the plan after security officials began a review into its involvement in the mobile network upgrade.

The government has approached Washington about a “D10” club of democratic partners, based on the G7 plus Australia, South Korea and India.

One option would see the club channel investment to technology companies based within its member states. Nokia and Ericsson are the only European suppliers of 5G infrastructure and experts say that they cannot provide 5G kit as quickly or as cheaply as Huawei.

The United States has long been concerned about the penetration of Chinese state-controlled technology firms in telecommunication, aviation, and military networks in the allied countries. Washington was reviewing intelligence cooperation with the UK in light of Huawei’s involvement in country’s 5G network, the media reports said earlier this month. 

Huawei is at the forefront of the China’s global spying network, U.S. intelligence believes. “We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world,” Robert O’Brien, National Security Adviser, revealed in February.

Johnson’s decision is part of a larger strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on China in wake of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the media reports say. Senior British ministers “have begun to draw up “Project Defend” aimed at boosting British self sufficiency in strategic medical and technological sectors,” The Guardian newspaper reported last week. 

The move to counter China in 5G roll-out was welcomed by Britain’s ruling Conservatives. “This is very good news and I hope and believe it will be the start of a complete and thorough review of our dangerous dependency on China,” former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said

The decision to confront China comes at a times when Beijing is absorbing the territory of Hong Kong, a former British colony. Britain handed over the region to Communist China under the promise of maintaining the rights and liberties of its residents under the “one country, two systems” policy 23 years ago. China has reneged on that pledge, passing a new law on Thursday overriding Hong Kong’s constitution.

Responding to Beijing’s takeover, the UK government is considering granting British citizenship to almost three million Hong Kong residents. “If China imposes this law, we will explore options to allow British Nationals Overseas to apply for leave to stay in the UK, including a path to citizenship,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the parliament on Friday.

Secretary Mike Pompeo invokes Thatcher in warning the UK about Huawei and China

[Cover image via YouTube]

 

 
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