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UK will make a final decision on Huawei this month

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As the world’s largest supplier of mobile network equipment, Huawei has repeatedly denied ongoing allegations on the company. Ahead of the decision, Washington had planned to send a delegation, including deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, to meet with British officials this week.

Last month, the United States passed legislation that included a little-noticed provision bolstering threats to restrict intelligence-sharing with allies that use Huawei equipment.

Washington is seen to be “cocking the pistol,” said a person with knowledge of the British government’s position on Huawei. “What’s unclear is how, when or indeed if it will actually be fired.”

A UK government spokesman said: “The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance. The government continues to consider its position on high-risk vendors and a decision will be made in due course.”

The U.S. State Department and National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Britain is a key battleground in the geopolitical tug-of-war over Huawei. Officials decided in principle last year to block the company from critical parts of the 5G network but give it limited access to less sensitive parts. A final decision has yet to be made public.

A provision of the U.S. 2020 defense spending law, signed by President Donald Trump in December, directs intelligence agencies to consider the use of telecoms and cybersecurity infrastructure “provided by adversaries of the United States, particularly China and Russia,” when entering intelligence-sharing agreements with foreign countries.

The provision, added by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, was aimed in particular at members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance made up of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and was intended as a “a first shot across the bow,” said a person familiar with the matter.

An aide to Cotton said the senator’s team is working on a new draft bill that could be released this month and would “significantly restrict” intelligence-sharing with countries that use Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, following through on earlier U.S. threats to do so.

“I’m profoundly concerned about the possibility that close allies, including the UK, might permit the Chinese Communist Party effectively to build their highly sensitive 5G infrastructure,” Cotton told Reuters.

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