America could move weapons stored on British soil if UK persists with Huawei, US senator warns

Danielle Sheridan
Tom Cotton, to the left of Donald Trump, last night gave evidence to the Defence Select Committee  - Evan Vucci/AP

America could move weapons stored on British soil if the UK allows Huawei to build its 5G network, a US senator has warned.

Tom Cotton, the Republican senator for Arkansas who was called as a witness before the Defence Select Committee, warned that the case for America keeping some US Air Force assets, such as F-35 fighters, in the UK could be weakened if it goes ahead with Huawei, as it would pose a security risk.

“We have to make a decision about deploying those [F-35 fighters] to many countries,” Senator Cotton said. 

“Obviously if you no longer have Huawei in your network then F-35 fighters can be based in your country under my legislation.

“That does not mean I would drop my legislation… my legislation is about Huawei and the threat Huawei poses to our airmen and our aircraft.” 

He added that allowing Huawei in UK infrastructure could "give PLA [China's People's Liberation Army] hackers a window into our military logistics operations", which he said could put US forces and American weapons systems based in England "at dangerous risk".

Chinese sovereign investment

His comments come after the Government confirmed last month that the National Cyber Security Centre had launched a review of Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5G network in the wake of US sanctions.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, warned that the UK needed to break its dependency on Huawei. 

“We are yet to have our sputnik moment,” Mr Ellwood told The Daily Telegraph.  “When it comes to China’s telecommunications ability and where they are taking ownership of the digital domain we desperately need that wake up call, and ask what is the alternative? 

China takes commercial operations and thumps huge sums of state funding into them. That allows them to ensnare smaller countries into its web of influence. Once you’re in that vortex of dependence you can’t get out of it.” 

However Victor Zhang, Vice President of Huawei said yesterday’s committee “concentrated on America’s desire for a home-grown 5G company that can “match” or “beat” Huawei”. 

“It’s clear that market position, rather than security concerns, is what underpins America’s attack on Huawei,” Mr Zang said. 

“The committee was given no evidence to substantiate security allegations. We welcome open and fair competition as it fosters innovation and drives down costs for everyone.”