German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has cast doubt on whether Chinese telecom equipment vendor Huawei Technologies could participate in the development and construction of the country's fifth-generation data network (5G).
Maas told reporters in Berlin on Monday that Huawei was a company dependent on the Chinese state due to its national security laws, which meant Huawei was obliged to pass on information to the government there.
Germany therefore wants to add a test of trustworthiness to the 5G security catalogue that so far had mainly envisaged an evaluation of technical criteria, Maas said.
In this test of trustworthiness, German authorities will examine if a company is forced by law in its home country to pass on information and data that actually should be protected, Maas said, adding: "That's the case with Huawei."
The comments by the foreign minister are the strongest sign yet Berlin is willing to take a tougher approach on Huawei and may exclude the Chinese equipment vendor at least from some parts of the 5G network.
Government officials confirmed last month that Germany's so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but said no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors.
The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained 'back doors' that would enable China to spy on other countries.
German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.
The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead.
U.S. officials have also argued that, under China's national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.