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Huawei 5G Dispute Cracks Relations Between UK and Australia Allies

Updated on February 17, 2020

Controversy over the role of Chinese communications technology company Huawei in the construction of 5G networks in the UK has become increasingly tense, and senior members of the Australian Parliament have cancelled their planned visit to the UK. Reports quoted the British side as saying that details of a high-end meeting between the two countries were leaked, and Huawei was discussed during the meeting.

MPs from the Intelligence and Security Committee were scheduled to travel to Britain next month. However, there are reports that the visit has been postponed at the time of the diplomatic rift between Britain and Australia.

Despite pressure from Washington, the British authorities last month decided that Huawei would continue to play a role in the construction of 5G systems in the UK; Australia had banned Huawei from participating in the country's next-generation 5G mobile network.

Last week, British Foreign Affairs Minister Dominic Raab (Lan Taowen) visited Australia and met with members of the Australian Parliament's Intelligence Committee.

Details of the meeting were later leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald, in which a lawmaker rebuked Raab over the UK's decision on Huawei, saying Australia was very disappointed.

According to Australian media reports, British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell in the country issued a formal complaint to two committees of the Australian Parliament.

Australia and the United Kingdom are members of the Five Eyes, an international intelligence-sharing group that also includes the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

The Australian Parliament confirmed on Saturday (February 15) that the trip to the UK will be delayed, but the official reason is that the UK has not appointed a corresponding committee in Parliament after the general election last December.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, during a gathering with Raab, Anthony Byrne, deputy chairman of the Australian Intelligence Council, said allowing China to create Britain's 5G communications infrastructure was tantamount to Russia's construction.

"If you let the Russians found out the facilities of your home network, what would you feel? That's how we feel about Huawei," a related report quoted Berne as saying to Rab.

In a Twitter post at the time, he said that the meeting had a "full and frank discussion" on 5G and its strategic challenges. Triedel was also present.

The Sydney Morning Herald said Rab responded to Berne that allowing Huawei to participate was a "difficult" decision, for "technical" rather than "political" reasons.

The British High Commission to Australia told the BBC: "Our position is that we'll not discuss the private briefing or any information from the private briefing."

The Australian government did not comment on the matter.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that Triedell expressed dissatisfaction with the disclosure of the information in a letter to Australian lawmakers.

An unwilling member of the committee was quoted by ABC as saying that Triedel's involvement in the incident was "stupid".

However, Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg has tried to downplay the diplomatic rift, saying that "our relationship with the United Kingdom is extremely strong.

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