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US official welcomes German restrictions on 5G suppliers

A senior American official has signalled that the US campaign to block Huawei from the roll out of 5G networks in Europe is gaining momentum, despite a series of perceived setbacks.

Germany and the European Commission last month defied US calls to ban the Chinese tech giant, instead favouring new frameworks designed to limit the risks posed by equipment vendors.

The interventions were regarded as defeats for the US, which has conducted a fierce lobbying campaign in Europe amid concerns about Huawei’s alleged ties to the Beijing authorities.

But speaking with journalists earlier this week, Rob Strayer, the State Department’s deputy assistant for cyber policy, welcomed Germany’s intervention, claiming it as a victory for the US.

“We have encouraged countries to adopt risk-based security frameworks,” he said in remarks reported by Reuters. “And we think that a rigorous application of those frameworks … will lead inevitably to the banning of Huawei.”

“At this point we’re looking for governments to adopt security standards like we’re seeing in Germany,” he added. “We think it was a very positive step forward in the German standards.”

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the US was urging European governments to only accept 5G equipment from companies based in countries with independent court systems.

Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei has said he would resist attempts by the Chinese government to force the company to comply with intelligence operations, but it is not clear if there is a legal framework in place for him to do so.

Germany said “core components may only be procured from trustworthy vendors and manufacturers”, signalling that Huawei could be allowed to bid for contracts to supply 5G masts but not components in the centre of the 5G network.

The UK will publish its own review of telecoms security in the coming weeks, and is expected to favour a similar approach.