Defense Secretary Mark Esper said March 5 that he and U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace will “work together to further reduce” the role of equipment and services provided by China-based Huawei in U.K. 5G communications infrastructure.

The pledge for further efforts by the defense chiefs follows the decision of the U.K. government in late January to bar the use of equipment and services provided by “high risk vendors” from “sensitive ‘core’ parts of 5G and gigabit-capable networks” in the U.K., and to impose a 35 percent cap on high-risk vendor access to non-sensitive parts of U.K. networks.

That government decision was being debated in the U.K. House of Commons this week, with local reports suggesting further action on the decision next week.

At the March 5 joint press conference, Esper spoke about “threats from China,” and said that “on this front we had a candid discussion about the path ahead with the U.K.’s 5G decision and agreed to work together to further reduce Huawei’s presence in telecom infrastructure” in the U.K.

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“Intelligence sharing, particularly through the Five Eyes (the U.S. and its U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand allies) construct is one of the pillars of our defense cooperation,” Esper said. “Opening critical allied networks to Chinese vendors who ultimately answer to the Communist Party could allow Beijing to access, disrupt, manipulate, and mis-use vital information, thus jeopardizing the integrity and strength of the NATO alliance,” he said.

“We are committed to working with the U.K. on a way forward that results in the exclusion of untrusted vendor components for 5G networks,” he said.

“We understand the threats that emanate from China, we don’t take those lightly,” said Wallace at the press conference. “We are going to explore in our integrated defense and foreign policy the way forward to make sure that we are fit for the 21st century,” he added.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.