White House vows to protect U.S. telecoms network from Huawei security threat

FILE PHOTO: Huawei logo is pictured on the headquarters building in Reading, Britain July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration will work to safeguard American telecoms networks from "untrusted vendors" like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd that threaten national security, the White House said on Wednesday, offering some insight into its plans for China's top telecoms equipment company, long in Washington's crosshairs.

"Telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors, including Huawei, is a threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in a daily briefing.

"We'll ensure that the American telecommunications network...do not use equipment from untrusted vendors and we'll work with allies to secure their telecommunications networks and make investments to expand production of telecommunications equipment by trusted U.S. and allied companies," she added.

Huawei declined to comment and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Questions have swirled about how Democratic President Joe Biden, who took office earlier this month, will handle Huawei. The company has been accused by Washington of being capable of spying on customers, as well as intellectual property theft and sanctions violations. Huawei has denied wrongdoing.

Biden's predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, placed the company on a trade blacklist and led a global campaign to convince allies to exclude it from their networks.

The remarks come after Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Biden's nominee to head the U.S. Commerce Department, raised red flags among China hardliners in Washington on Tuesday by refusing to commit to keeping Huawei on the U.S. economic blacklist overseen by the agency.

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, a China hardliner with no role in the confirmation proceedings, called on the Senate on Wednesday to put a freeze on the Raimondo process until the Biden administration gives a clear answer on whether it plans to keep Huawei on the blacklist.

"We need a Commerce Department with strong national security credentials and a Secretary with a clear understanding of the (Chinese) threat," he said in a statement. "Until they make their intentions clear on whether they will keep Huawei on the Entity List, I urge my Senate colleagues to hold Ms. Raimondo’s confirmation."

The Senate Commerce Committee said Wednesday it will vote Feb. 3 on Raimondo's nomination.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Nandita Bose and Alexandra Alper in Washington; Additional Reporting by David Shepardonson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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