LONDON - Britain publicly chastised China's Huawei Technologies for failing to fix long-standing security flaws in its mobile network equipment and revealed new "significant technical issues," increasing pressure on the company as it battles Western allegations that Beijing could use its gear for spying.
In a report published on Thursday (March 28), the government-led board that oversees vetting of Huawei gear in Britain said continued problems with the company's software development had brought "significantly increased risk to UK operators."
The board - which includes officials from Britain's GCHQ communications intelligence agency - said in the report that the company had made "no material progress" addressing security flaws and it didn't have confidence in Huawei's capacity to deliver on proposed measures to address "underlying defects."
The unusually direct criticism is a fresh blow to the world's largest maker of mobile network equipment, which has been under intense scrutiny in recent months.
Officials in the United States and elsewhere have been increasingly public in voicing their concerns that Huawei's equipment could be used by Beijing for spying or sabotage, particularly as operators move to the next generation of mobile networks, known as 5G.
Shenzhen-based Huawei said in a statement said it takes the oversight board's concerns "very seriously" and that the issues identified in the report "provide vital input for the ongoing transformation of our software engineering capabilities".
Separately, China's commerce ministry said on Thursday that Japan's decision to curb government purchases from Huawei and ZTE Corp could hurt bilateral ties if Tokyo's actions are deemed unfair.
Japan revised its procurement rules last year, introducing measures to strengthen security that were also a de facto ban on government purchases from Huawei and ZTE.
The measures have been extended to 5G licensing rules for private companies, meaning Japan's telcos are unlikely to use network equipment from the two Chinese manufacturers.
"We do not hope to see rising protectionism in countries like Japan that are supporters of free trade," ministry spokesman Gao Feng told a regular briefing in Beijing.
The ministry had noticed that Huawei and ZTE's business operations have suffered in Japan, he said. "If Japan's actions are unfair, that would shake mutual trust in both countries as well as the confidence of companies to co-operate, hurting bilateral relations," he added.
Huawei has been facing mounting scrutiny, led by the United States, amid worries its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.
The company says the concerns are unfounded.
Last year, ZTE, the world's fourth-largest telecoms equipment maker, was prevented from buying components from US firms in a crippling row over violations of export restrictions.
ZTE resumed normal business after paying up to US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) in fines and replacing its entire board.
Bilateral ties between China and Japan have improved in the past year, with both sides expressing a desire to forge closer ties, both strategically and economically.