Trump ally says US forces could leave UK over Huawei row

Published June 3, 2020
Washington argues that Huawei would be able to either spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing. ⁠—AFP/File
Washington argues that Huawei would be able to either spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing. ⁠—AFP/File

LONDON: A US senator closely allied with President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that American air forces could redeploy from Britain if the UK government plugs Chinese technology onto its 5G network.

Tom Cotton’s message to the UK parliament came during a review of London’s decision in January to allow China’s technology leader Huawei to build up to 35 per cent of Britain’s speedy new data network.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to cut the private Chinese firm out of the most sensitive “core” elements of 5G that access personal data.

But Washington argues that Huawei would still be able to either spy on Western communications or simply shut down the UK network under orders from Beijing.

Cotton told UK lawmakers that American F-35 jets stationed in Britain are armed with precision-guided munitions whose supply and deployment could be compromised if Huawei equipment was used.

“In the coming years, the United States plans to increase our defence posture in the Pacific. This build-up may require us to ship assets from other commands,” Cotton told a virtual defence sub-committee hearing.

“Now, senior US officials are realising our troops will face an operational security risk in the United Kingdom that they wouldn’t otherwise face in the Pacific,” he said.

“It would be a mistake for any British lawmaker to misinterpret this potential realignment of US forces as a bluff or a simple messaging effort.”

Cotton is a top Trump ally who has fiercely defended the US leader’s controversial comments about protests raging across American cities in the wake of an unarmed black man’s death during an arrest.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2020

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