Former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove.

Former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove.Credit:AP

“Huawei is not an ordinary international telecommunications company, it’s an intimate part of the Chinese state. And if you know anything about Chinese military strategy, they talk about the fusion of civil and military capabilities and there is a close linkage, undoubtedly, between the Chinese military capability and Huawei.”

Huawei has always vehemently denied the claim that it has links to the Chinese military, with a spokesman saying such accusations are “categorically untrue and groundless”.

Sir Richard said that it was time for Britain to consider a “reset of the whole of our relationship” with China.

It comes as ministers fear Beijing could launch a cyber attack on Britain, with security sources warning of a “perfect storm” of diplomatic rows over Huawei, Hong Kong and China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed government and industry bodies were targeted by China in retaliation for Australia banning Huawei from its 5G network.

One minister told The Mail on Sunday that such a reaction in Britain had formed “part of our conversations”.

Asked if such a response was plausible, Sir Richard told Sky News: “It’s a very aggressive step for the Chinese to take at this point in time. And I wonder whether they would, as it were, go that far at the moment. Of course it’s a threat and I think we’ve known quite significantly that the Chinese have developed this capability and are prepared to use it.”

The Chinese have developed this capability and are prepared to use it.

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of British Secret Intelligence Service

Huawei has written to Downing Street requesting a meeting with Sir Edward Lister, Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, in which it will ask to delay its exit from the mobile phone network until after the next election in 2025. Sources told The Sunday Times it will pledge to cover the cost of maintaining the networks until then.

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In January, the government told telco providers that Huawei kit could only be used in the “non-core” elements of the next generation 5G network, and a 35 per cent cap would be imposed on its use in the wider network, including 3G and 4G, by 2023.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected at Tuesday’s National Security Council meeting to tell networks to remove all of the Chinese firm’s equipment from their networks by 2025.

In response, big networks such as Vodafone, Three, O2 and BT are intensifying calls for the government to drop its original targets set in January to allow for a smoother overhaul of thousands of telecom towers, masts and base stations that rely on Chinese kit.

“There are sensible ways of ripping out network equipment, and there are less sensible ways of ripping out network equipment,” an industry source said.

“Longer timescales have a bunch of benefits, it means we can do more sensible network planning that allows us to replace kit in cell towers while maintaining service in the area.”

The Daily Telegraph

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