The U.S. has warned Germany that if Chinese tech companies such as Huawei help build its new 5G telecom infrastructure, U.S. agencies might not share as much intelligence with the German government as they now do.
It is the first time the United States has directly threatened a country with an intelligence blackout for using Huawei equipment, and escalates Washington's already-heated battle with the Chinese telecoms giant.
Grenell sent his letter the day after German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany wishes to avoid banning Huawei but will ensure all of the components in its 5G network are secure.
The U.S. has been openly skeptical of Huawei's independence since at least 2012, when the House Intelligence Committee issued a report criticizing the tech company over its ties to China's communist government (and possibly the military) and a lack of transparency.
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Germany's Ministry of Economics confirmed it had received a letter from the USA and that it would soon respond.
"To the extent there are untrusted vendors in the networks of an ally, that could raise future questions about the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive communications within that country, as well as between that country and its allies", the spokesperson said.
Germany is opening bids for its 5G infrastructure project next week. Here, a billboard for the Chinese telecom giant is seen in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof railway station. In addition, Germany would also tighten the laws regulating communication, according to Handelsblatt, but there would be no "Lex Huawei" deliberately excluding the Chinese company. Huawei and ZTE already face restrictions on the American domestic market, while U.S. officials are leaning on other nations to exclude China from the lucrative upgrade of wireless infrastructure to 5G standard. The arrest, which occurred amid the ongoing China-US trade row, was denounced by both Huawei and Beijing; China's authorities have demanded that Canada immediately release the Chinese national.