Poland Urges NATO Allies to Coordinate Against China Cybersecurity Challenges


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BRUSSELS—Poland is joining the U.S. in pressing its NATO allies to coordinate efforts to address security challenges from China after Friday’s arrest of two men on charges of spying for Beijing.

Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski on Saturday echoed U.S. exhortations of allies to exclude Huawei Technologies Co., and other Chinese hardware makers from their telecommunications systems.

Washington has effectively banned Chinese equipment from major U.S. telecom networks and is pressing allies to do the same, senior American officials have said. Poland has closely allied itself with U.S. security positions on a range of issues and is among Washington’s most ardent supporters inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Poland’s Internal Security Agency on Friday detained a Chinese national employed by Huawei and a Polish citizen previously employed by the Polish intelligence service on allegations of espionage. Polish officials said Huawei itself wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing. Huawei on Saturday said it had fired the employee, Wang Weijing, its Polish sales director, and that his alleged actions “have no relation to the company.”

Still, the case has elevated existing anxieties within Europe over pervasive equipment from China’s aggressive and extremely competitive global players. Many European governments are assessing their use of Chinese network equipment, the European Union has tightened rules on foreign investment in a bid to block Chinese acquisitions of critical European technologies and EU officials have warned of threats from Chinese tech giants.

The detention of a Huawei executive on espionage charges in Poland helps a U.S. push to dissuade allies around the world from using the Chinese company’s gear. WSJ’s Stu Woo explores how the arrest could affect Huawei. Photo: Zuma Press

EU tech commissioner Anders Ansip said in December, “I think we have to be worried about those companies.” Huawei said in response: “We categorically reject any allegation that we might pose a security threat.”

Poland’s Mr. Brudzinski pushed the concerns into a new area on Saturday, telling broadcaster RMF FM, “There are concerns about Huawei within NATO as well. It would make most sense to have a joint stance among EU member states and NATO members.”

NATO has increased its cyber defenses and preparations for cyberwar over the past decade. In November, NATO staged a cyber wargame, Cyber Coalition 2018, which it described as one of the biggest cyber exercises ever. NATO doesn’t have its own cyberweapons, but at a summit in July leaders agreed to establish a new Cyberspace Operations Center and the alliance can tap capabilities of its 28 members.

“We will integrate national cyber capabilities into NATO operations,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in October.

Alliance cyber activities so far have focused largely on Russia and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, where member countries are active. NATO has missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NATO members “consult regularly on cyber challenges and threats,” spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Sunday, responding to events and comments in Warsaw. “We continue to boost our cyberdefenses and support allies as they strengthen their national cyberdefenses.”

The detention of two Canadian citizens in China and unexpected comments from President Trump have magnified the political stakes of the case involving Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was released on bail earlier this week. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP

Many NATO members are considering banning Huawei equipment or have taken action. France has quietly forbidden much Huawei equipment from its networks and is directing operators not to use Huawei equipment on France’s planned 5G network, people familiar with the government’s actions said.

Britain and Canada have said they are reviewing their telecom supply chains. The U.K. hasn’t explicitly said its review targets Huawei, but telecom-industry executives say it obviously does. The U.K. said it aims to finish its review by the spring. U.K. officials are particularly worried that the Huawei software they review in a special lab doesn’t match the software in equipment actually used in British wireless and internet networks.

Rising pressure could turn up the heat most on Germany, which in recent months has been skeptical of U.S. admonitions to scrutinize Huawei. Berlin has requested specific evidence to substantiate concerns Huawei could use its equipment for espionage, which the U.S. hasn’t provided, people familiar with the matter said. Germany’s Federal Information Security office has called for expanded oversight of equipment by all suppliers, including Huawei and its global rivals. Huawei is a significant vendor of both consumer electronics and infrastructure equipment in Germany.

Deutsche Telekom
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, the Bonn-based telecom provider that carries Huawei products, in December said it would review its equipment procurement strategy because of “the global discussion about the security of network elements from Chinese manufacturers.” A spokesman for the carrier declined to comment on the Polish arrest of the Huawei executive on Friday.

Write to Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com




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