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Trump officials and Pelosi unite to warn UK over Huawei 5G decision

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The campaign to stop Britain and other European states allowing the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei into their 5G networks was the focal point of US efforts at a leading international security forum.

High-ranking members of the Trump administration took turns to warn the UK in particular, and other Nato members, about risks to intelligence sharing with America if they allowed the multinational into their communication system.

In a rare show of unanimity in the current bitter partisan politics in Washington, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives, told the Munich Security Conference that letting Huawei into the British and European networks would be choosing “autocracy over democracy”.


Speaking of the company’s links to China’s communist party, she continued: “This is the most insidious form of aggression, to have that line of communication, 5G, dominated by a government that does not share our values.”

The intervention by one of the most senior figures in her party, who is at constant loggerheads with Donald Trump, was presented as a message that the American position on the issue would remain firm even if the Democrats win this year’s presidential election.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator, said: “Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump are not going to have many dinners together, but if you ask them about the British purchase of Huawei they will give you the same answer. We are very firm in our commitment – Republicans and Democrats – that if you go down the Huawei road you are going to burn a lot of bridges.”

Dissension over Huawei has not just affected UK’s relations with the US. According to Australian media, the British high commissioner to Canberra wrote to the heads of two federal parliamentary committees following leaks of conversations with Dominic Raab during the British foreign secretary’s recent visit to the country.

Australia, a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network with the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, has barred Huawei from its 5G network and some politicians have expressed concern about information sharing.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in the meeting with Mr Raab, Anthony Byrne, the deputy chair of Australia’s intelligence committee, said that allowing China to build the UK’s 5G telecoms infrastructure was equivalent to letting Russia construct it. “How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei,” Mr Byrne was quoted as telling the foreign secretary.

The high commissioner’s letter resulted, it is claimed, in the Australian parliament’s intelligence and security committee cancelling a planned visit to London.

There were no UK government ministers present to give London’s view at the Munich conference, a prestigious gathering described as a “Davos for defence”. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, suddenly pulled out from coming. Sir Alex Younger, the head of MI6, also cancelled his appearance at a late stage. Downing Street denied instructing the two men not to attend.

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted: “The one nation that is only completely absent from MSC2020 [Munich Security Conference 2020] is the UK. Very strange, minsters were supposed to come, but then everyone withdrew. Has ‘Global Britain’ gone completely introvert?”

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi sought to refute the allegations against Huawei and wider charges of infiltration and aggression by his country from the US as “lies and smears”. He asked European states not to give in to “bullying” and allow the Chinese company a “level playing field” which will be the “fair thing to do and consistent with market rules”.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, described Huawei as a “Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence”. He wanted to stress that Nato members using the Chinese company’s equipment in their telecommunications systems may jeopardise military and intelligence relationships.

“When Huawei turn up at your door and say that you’ll lose out if economically you don’t, don’t be fooled. We can’t let information go across networks that could be hijacked by the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party presents an enormous risk not to the place of the west but to the idea of the west,” said Mr Pompeo.

Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, stated: “We are very concerned about Chinese technology getting into our systems or the systems of our allies. Huawei is the poster child for that right now.”

He added that he was “not yet able to digest what the UK proposes” to counteract any harmful influence from Huawei. But he cautioned: “When you step one step forward you can take two steps back.”

Mr Esper said the US wanted to work with European partners to develop alternatives to Huawei.

“We are encouraging allied and US tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak. Developing our own secure 5G networks will outweigh any perceived gains from partnering with heavily subsidised Chinese providers that answer to party leadership,” he said.



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India is building a wall ‘to block slums from Trump’s sight’ during visit

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Donald Trump will be shielded from the sight of slums by a newly built wall when he visits the city of Ahmedabad during a visit to India this month.

A senior government official said the wall was being built for security reasons, not to conceal the slum district.

But the contractor building it told Reuters the government “did not want the slum to be seen” when the US president passes by on the ride in from Ahmedabad’s airport.


“I’ve been ordered to build a wall as soon as possible, over 150 masons are working round-the-clock to finish the project,” the contractor said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The government official conceded that the wall was part of a “beautification and cleanliness” drive.

Whatever the reason, the 400m-long and 7ft-high wall will prevent the US leader from getting a glimpse of a slum district that houses an estimated 800 families.

Mr Trump, who has made his pledge to build a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico a feature of his presidency, will visit India on 24 and 25 February to reaffirm strategic ties that have been buffeted by trade disputes.

He is expected to attend an event dubbed “Kem Chho Trump” (“How are you, Trump”) at a stadium in Ahmedabad along the lines of the “Howdy Modi” extravaganza he hosted for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in Houston last September.

Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Trump quoted Mr Modi as saying “millions and millions of people” would attend the rally.

The event provides Mr Trump, who was impeached in December, with the opportunity to woo the support of hundreds of thousands of Indian-American voters ahead of the US presidential election in November.

But some slum dwellers whose homes will be cordoned off by the wall in Ahmedabad – the largest city in Modi’s home state of Gujarat – said the government was wasting tax-payer money to hide the poor.

“Poverty and slums are the reality of our life, but Modi’s government wants to hide the poor,” said Parvatbhai Mafabhai, a day worker who has lived there with his family for more than three decades.

Reuters Thomson Foundation



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Irish MEP reprimanded for calling Venezuela’s disputed president a ‘gobs****’

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An Irish MEP has been reprimanded for calling Venezuela’s disputed opposition leader – or interim president – an “unelected gobshite”.

Mick Wallace, an independent member who was first elected in 2019, said the recognition of Juan Guaido as president by EU countries was “an absolute embarrassment” and “a disgrace on the part of the member states of Europe”.

Mr Wallace was speaking at a meeting at the European parliament in Strasbourg about the Venezuelan presidential crisis.


The meeting’s chair, Rainer Wieland, quickly cut Mr Wallace’s mic and said: “You did use the word ‘gobshite’, sir and I would reprimand you over that.”

The world is divided over whether Nicolas Maduro or Juan Guaido is the rightful president of Venezuela. 

Mr Maduro, a left-wing populist, won a 2018 election – but NGOs and bodies like the EU, the Organisation of American States, and the United States have highlighted irregularities and said the poll was not free and fair.

Mr Guaido was proposed by the opposition-controlled national assembly as an acting president until new elections could be held, and was recognised by around 60 mostly western countries allied to the US. 

But Mr Maduro’s government has accused Mr Guaido of being the figurehead of a US-backed coup d’etat, in particular pointing to a failed military uprising by his supporters in the army in April 2019.

Despite international recognition for the assembly’s candidate, Mr Maduro is believed to control the majority of state institutions, as of the start of 2020.



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