Berlin (dpa) – Germany has reacted coolly to a US threat to scale back intelligence sharing if Chinese firms are involved in the construction of the European nation’s super-fast 5G network.Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government would set security standards and then consult with its partners. That is self-evident,” Merkel said in Berlin on Tuesday, after the US ambassador in Berlin reportedly warned that US-German intelligence cooperation could only continue at its current level if Chinese firms were excluded from the construction of the network. Richard Grenell raised the issue in a letter to the German economy minister, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, particularly voicing concern over the telecommunication giant Huawei.
The US has been pushing back against China’s technological expansion by asking that other countries refuse to adopt Huawei’s 5G infrastructure, which Washington says poses security threats. Critics of Huawei, particularly in the US, claim that the company is too closely aligned with the Chinese government and could be forced to work with authorities on intelligence gathering through its equipment. Australia has already banned Huawei from its 5G networks, while New Zealand and Britain are reviewing whether to allow it to proceed with 5G projects. China says the US accusations against Huawei are ungrounded and that the US is trying to suppress Chinese companies. Germany is currently mulling tightening the security rules for its telecommunications infrastructure, which could lead to Huawei’s exclusion from involvement in the construction of the 5G network in Europe’s biggest economy.
Bidding for the licenses for the expansion of the new super-fast internet network is expected to start March 19. The chief whip of Merkel’s ruling conservative bloc (CDU/CSU), Michael Grosse-Broemer rebutted the threat in strong terms on Tuesday. “This government doesn’t need any demands or advice from the US ambassador on which steps to take in security policy,” Grosse-Broemer, who heads up the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction, said. Grosse-Broemer added that he was “very sure that the government can competently solve fundamental security questions on its own. No advice is needed from the US ambassador in this regard.” He added that Germany was already looking for a solution with Huawei, and that if this caused difficulties in US-German relations, then US President Donald Trump could speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany’s Ministry of Economics confirmed on Monday evening that it had received a letter from the US and that it would soon respond.