The White House has threatened to curb intelligence sharing with Germany if Berlin allows Chinese company Huawei to build its 5G mobile network, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Issued in a letter by U.S. ambassador Richard Grenell to the German economics minister, the threat is the first time the U.S. administration has explicitly warned an ally that using Huawei — or any other Chinese telecoms company — will impact defense.
The German embassy in Washington confirmed it received the letter, but declined to comment on its contents.
Germany announced last week that it would not ban any company from bidding on 5G contracts — despite strong pressure from Washington.
Angela Merkel’s CDU party said Tuesday it would make its decision about whether or not to allow Huawei equipment in its 5G network without taking advice from Washington, according to Bloomberg.
The U.S. letter said that secure communications systems are essential for defense and intelligence cooperation and that Huawei or compatriots such as ZTE could compromise such networks.
Grenell stressed that intelligence sharing would continue, but not to the same level as it currently does.
The White House has in recent months made a concerted effort to convince allies to ditch Huawei equipment when building their 5G data networks. While countries such as Australia and New Zealand have heeded the warnings, others including Germany, Canada and the U.K. have said they are still considering using Huawei.
It is unclear if the White House has issued similar warnings to other countries.
Huawei has pushed back against the allegations that it has close ties to the government in Beijing and therefore poses a national security risk. The company recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in Texas, claiming it acted unconstitutionally by banning federal agencies from using the company’s equipment.
It has also published full-page ads in U.S. newspapers inviting U.S. journalists to visit the company’s headquarters in China, and telling consumers not to “believe everything you hear.”
Huawei recently opened a new cybersecurity transparency center in Brussels, Belgium — a push to persuade European politicians, regulators, and consumers that it has nothing to hide.
Cover image: President Donald Trump (L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War at the Triumphal Arch on the Elysian Fields in Paris. (Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)