BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry has some suggestions for the Trump administration if they are worried about foreign eavesdropping on the U.S. president’s iPhone: use a Huawei handset instead.
Or just sever ties with the outside world completely.
The riposte came after a New York Times report that Chinese and Russian spies often secretly listened in on President Donald Trump when he used his unsecure Apple cellphone to gossip with old friends.
“Reading this report, I feel that today in the United States there really are some people who are doing their utmost to win best script at the Oscars,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference on Thursday.
Such reports were “evidence that the New York Times makes fake news”, she said, adding two suggestions that were apparently aimed at the Trump administration.
“If they are really very worried about Apple phones being bugged, then they can change to using Huawei,” she said, referring to China’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker.
“If they are still not at ease, then in order to have an entirely secure device, they can stop using all forms of modern communication devices and cut off all ties with the outside world.”
The Times reported that Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, but the president refuses to give them up.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has come under scrutiny in the United States where intelligence agency leaders and others have said they are concerned that Huawei and other Chinese companies may be beholden to the Chinese government or ruling Communist Party, raising the risk of espionage.
The U.S. Democratic National Committee warned party candidates running in November elections not to use devices from Huawei or ZTE, another major Chinese telecoms gear maker.
The U.S. Department of Defense has stopped selling mobile phones and modems made by Huawei and ZTE in stores on its military bases, citing potential security risks.
And in March, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai told Congress he shared the concerns of some U.S. lawmakers about espionage threats from Huawei.
The New York Times cited U.S. officials as saying China had a sophisticated approach toward the intercepted presidential phone calls and was seeking to use them to determine what Trump thinks, whom he listens to and how best to sway him.
Beijing particularly is trying to use what it learns to prevent the current trade war between the two countries from escalating further, according to the newspaper.
Concerns have been raised on several occasions this year about cellphone surveillance activity in the Washington area. The Department of Homeland Security said in a letter to several senators in March that it had observed activity in Washington consistent with mobile subscriber identity catchers.
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING and David Alexander in WASHINGTON; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Peter Cooney & Simon Cameron-Moore)