US President Donald Trump’s administration is maintaining pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel to exclude Huawei Technologies from Germany’s 5G networks, though a high-level American official received no guarantees the Chinese supplier would be shut out at meetings in Berlin last week.
A delegation led by US undersecretary of state Keith Krach held talks with German officials during a two-day visit to the German capital. Krach said he was encouraged by new security measures being discussed by Merkel’s government, but that it remains open whether Huawei will be barred from 5G in Europe’s biggest economy.
The US official described Huawei as the “backbone of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state” and said Germany is under particular threat from the government in Beijing. He called the communist party an “existential threat”.
“The parasite is attached to the prize, and that is Germany,” Krach told a group of reporters Friday in Berlin, adding that the US has “respect” for whatever decisions Germany makes.
Merkel is holding the line against security hawks in her own government who agree with the US risk assessment as her ruling coalition finalises rules for Germany’s 5G network. A new set of regulations as part of a sprawling IT security law would tighten scrutiny over equipment vendors, giving cabinet members room to flag risks.
Merkel has refused to compromise on her core position that Germany mustn’t single out Huawei with a targeted ban. Although talks are ongoing, the measures on their own aren’t likely to amount to a de facto veto of Huawei by making the security demands too onerous, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
US secretary of state Michael Pompeo has repeatedly demanded that European governments exclude Huawei and get the Chinese supplier’s components “out of their system”.
Germany’s more open approach would leave it with looser rules than the UK, which has imposed a full ban, and France, where President Emmanuel Macron’s government has devised rules making it riskier for operators to use Huawei 5G kit, without banning it outright.
Huawei has become a lightning rod for geopolitical tensions with China. In addition to pressure from the US, Merkel has faced resistance from German intelligence agencies, who say that the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party pose a risk to information security. — Reported by Patrick Donahue, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP