BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany could still decide to rule out Chinese telecom equipment vendor Huawei Technologies from the construction of the country's fifth-generation data network (5G) due to security concerns, the defense minister said on Tuesday.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a cyber security conference organised by German business daily Handelsblatt that it was important to minimise any risks.
The German government is currently trying to shape the 5G security criteria in a way that would prevent foreign governments from gaining access to Germany's important infrastructure, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
"If that's not possible, then one has to ban Huawei from the procedure - just like other countries have done," said the minister, who is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The comments are the strongest sign yet that Berlin is willing to take a tougher approach on Huawei and may exclude the Chinese equipment vendor at least from some parts of the 5G network.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also cast doubt on whether Huawei could participate in the construction of the country's fifth-generation data network (5G).
Government officials confirmed last month that Germany's so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but said no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors.
The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its equipment contained 'back doors' that would enable China to spy on other countries.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Gareth Jones)