Monday, June 24, 2024

U.S. bans China Unicom over security concerns

China Unicom has become the latest Chinese telecommunications giant to be banned from the U.S. over “significant” national security and espionage concerns, the BBC reports.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it had voted unanimously to revoke authorization for the company’s American unit to operate in the U.S.

The firm must stop providing telecom services in the U.S. within 60 days. Larger rival China Telecom had its licence to operate in the U.S. revoked in October.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said: “There has been mounting evidence – and with it, a growing concern – that Chinese state-owned carriers pose a real threat to the security of our telecommunications networks.”

China Unicom told the BBC its American unit “has a good record of complying with relevant U.S. laws and regulations, and providing telecommunication services and solutions as a reliable partner of its customers in the past two decades…. China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited will closely follow the development of the situation.”

Chinese technology and telecom firms have been targeted in recent years by U.S. authorities over national security concerns. In 2019, Chinese state-owned telecom giant China Mobile also had its U.S. licence revoked.

In November, President Joe Biden signed legislation that stops companies judged to be a security threat from receiving new telecom equipment licences. Under the Secure Equipment Act, the FCC should no longer review applications from companies ruled to be a threat.

It means equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and three other Chinese companies cannot be used in U.S. telecom networks.

Also in November, the US government added a dozen more Chinese companies to its restricted trade list, citing national security and foreign policy concerns. Washington said that some of the firms are helping develop the Chinese military’s quantum computing program.

U.S. officials said the Chinese government’s control of the company gave it the opportunity “to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute U.S. communications.” This, in turn, could allow it “to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the U.S.,” they said.

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