Washington (AFP)

The United States surprised on Thursday by raising the idea of ​​taking control of telecommunications equipment manufacturers Nokia and Ericsson to stop the Chinese Huawei in 5G and stem the risks of espionage loaned to Beijing.

The proposal came from the United States' Minister of Justice, Bill Barr, at a symposium on the dangers of China.

If the United States had already put forward the idea of ​​helping the two companies financially, the question of capital control had never been raised publicly.

To respond to concerns over espionage, some have proposed that the United States "take control (of the Finnish Nokia and / or the Swedish Ericsson) either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies" and "our closest allies and we must certainly actively consider this approach, "said Barr, in a long speech denouncing what he sees as the turpitude of the communist regime.

The United States has been waging an intense campaign for many months to try to convince its allies to follow suit: ban Huawei from future 5G networks.

On the side of Ericsson, one indicates soberly: "we do not wish to comment". Nokia did not react immediately.

Barr said the two Nordic companies are the only companies capable of competing with Huawei today. "The main concern with these suppliers is that they are neither the size of Huawei nor the support of a powerful country with a large market like China," said Barr.

Washington says Huawei technology would give Chinese intelligence services access to sensitive data passing through the network. The company, leader in this technology which is to revolutionize mobile telephony, has repeatedly denied.

"If China establishes its dominance over 5G, it will be able to seize the new opportunities that will arise with a very wide range of emerging technologies, which will depend on and be closely linked to the 5G platform," Barr said. this conference devoted to the risks that China presents for the rest of the world.

Barr said China's dominance in the sector would give Beijing unprecedented leverage over countries using the technology.

"The power that the United States now has with the economic sanctions would be very pale compared to the unprecedented pressure tactics given to Beijing," he added.

- Perfidious Albion ? -

This Barr proposal comes just days after the Trump administration's campaign suffered a major setback and, what's more, with their closest ally.

At the end of January, the British government gave the green light to Huawei's participation in the 5G network, in a form which, it said, preserved national security by preventing the Chinese from having access to the "heart" of the network.

Donald Trump took it very badly and made it known during a telephone conversation last week with Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, understands the Financial Times.

According to the daily, the American president was in an "apoplectic" state.

In detail, the British government will not allow the Chinese company to take part in the "heart" of the network, in particular the servers through which user data pass, or to be present in sensitive geographical areas such as nuclear sites and military bases.

Huawei equipment should however be authorized in non-strategic infrastructures such as relay antennas, which allow the connection of mobile phones to the network, with a market share limited to 35% in 5G.

Washington has expressed its displeasure.

"Our point of view is that introducing Huawei into the system creates a real risk," commented Mike Pompeo, the head of American diplomacy on the plane that took him to London the day after the decision.

Huawei is "an extension of the Chinese Communist Party subject to a legal obligation to provide information to the Chinese Communist Party," he said.

24 hours later, the European Union followed suit in London by also partially opening its door to Huawei to develop 5G.

The European Commissioner for Industry, Thierry Breton, presented a "toolbox", drawn up by all the Member States of the Union in collaboration with the European Commission, which contains non-binding recommendations but intended to prevent risks of spying or sabotaging 5G networks.

© 2020 AFP