Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp “cannot be trusted,” US Attorney General William Barr said, labeling the Chinese firms a security threat as he backed a proposal to bar US rural wireless carriers from tapping a government fund to purchase equipment or services from them, Reuters reports.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote on Nov. 22 and is proposing requiring the carriers to remove and replace equipment from the Chinese companies.
Barr was quoted as saying in a letter to the FCC released on Thursday that “their own track record, as well as the practices of the Chinese government, demonstrate that Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted”
He added that “we should not signal that Huawei and ZTE are anything other than a threat to our collective security, for that is exactly what they, through their actions, have shown themselves to be.”
Barr noted that federal prosecutors charged Huawei with violations of the US embargo on Iran, bank fraud, obstruction of justice and trade secret theft. ZTE pleaded guilty in 2017 to illegally sending approximately US$32 million in US goods to Iran.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission “cannot ignore the risk that the Chinese government will seek to exploit network vulnerabilities in order to engage in espionage, insert malware and viruses, and otherwise compromise our critical communications networks.”
The move is the latest US action aimed at barring American companies from purchasing Huawei and ZTE equipment.
Huawei said last week that “in 30 years of business, Huawei has never had a major security-related incident in the 170 countries where we operate.”
The US government added Huawei to its economic blacklist in May, saying the Chinese company was involved in activities contrary to US national security.
Washington has pressed nations not to grant Huawei access to 5G networks and alleged Huawei’s equipment could be used by Beijing for spying, which the Chinese company has repeatedly denied.
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