A top U.S. security official warned Canada against allowing Huawei to partipate in its upcoming 5G network, and called for the release of two Canadians detained in China in the wake of a diplomatic spat involving the technology company.
Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum, U.S. President Donald Trump‘s national security advisor Robert O’Brien likened the inclusion of Huawei infrastructure into Canada’s future 5G network to a “Trojan Horse.”
“You get Huawei into Canada or any other Western country, they’re going to know every health record, every banking record, every social media post,” said O’Brien.
“They’re going to know everything about every single Canadian and so put aside the issue of sensitive data, Five Eyes intelligence sharing, obviously that’s something (that) will be impacted if our close allies let the Trojan Horse in the city.”
Whether or not Canada would allow Huawei to be a part of the wireless 5G network has become a contentious issue. The United States, Japan and Australia banned the company from their own networks, citing the company’s susceptibility to influence by the Chinese government. Huawei has dismissed such criticism.
The U.K. has also banned Huawei from the main parts of its communications network, while the main Dutch telecom provider Royal KPN said it will use a Western source to build its 5G network. Germany has not ruled out working with the company thus far, while Russia has already signed a deal with Huawei on 5G technology.
Former Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale previously said that the decision on whether or not to ban Huawei from Canada’s upcoming 5G network would be made after October’s federal election.
Relations between Canada and China have worsened in the last year, sparked by the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou last December.
Within days of Meng’s arrest in Vancouver on behalf of U.S. authorities, China detained Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage allegations — an act widely interpreted to have been made in retaliation.
“The treatment of the two Michaels is not right and they should be released … from that sort of wrongful detention in effort to gain leverage,” said O’Brien.
“It shouldn’t be allowed to stand, and different countries take different views and this is something that we’ve spoken out on and it’s time for China to let the two Michaels return to Canada.”
O’Brien said the Arctic is going to be the new “frontline” of defence. He praised Canada’s decision to deploy Arctic patrol ships, the first of which is now expected to be delivered in early 2020.
“The Russians and the Chinese have made it very clear they are going to militarize the Arctic so it’s nice to say that as Canadians, we don’t want to militarize the Arctic, but other people have made that decision for Canada and Canada needs to be in a position to defend itself, defend its values, defend its sovereignty, and defend its independence,” he said.
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— With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Reuters and The Associated Press