The United States Monday expanded its sanctions on China's Huawei, a move aimed at further limiting the tech giant's access to computer chips and other technology.
A US Commerce Department statement added 38 Huawei affiliates around the world to the "entity list," claiming that the company was using international subsidiaries to circumvent the sanctions which prevent export of US-based technology.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Huawei and its affiliates "have worked through third parties to harness US technology in a manner that undermines US national security and foreign policy interests."
The Donald Trump administration has argued Huawei poses a security risk because of its links to the Beijing government, a claim denied by the company.
The toughening of sanctions comes amid heightened US-China tensions and claims by Washington that Chinese firms are being used for spying, despite repeated denials.
Trump has sought to ban the wildly popular mobile application TikTok if it is not divested by its Chinese parent firm ByteDance.
Speaking on Fox News Monday, Trump claimed that Huawei "comes out and they spy on our country – this is very intricate stuff, you have microchips, you have things that you can't even see."
Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Battle for 5G
The Trump administration has banned Huawei from 5G wireless networks in the United States and has pressed allies to do the same.
In the meantime, Huawei became the largest global smartphone manufacturer in the past quarter, largely due to sales in the Chinese market, even as Washington moves to deny the company access to much of the Google Android system.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement that the Trump Administration "sees Huawei for what it is -- an arm of the Chinese Communist Party's surveillance state."
Pompeo said the new sanctions were imposed "to protect US national security, our citizens' privacy, and the integrity of our 5G infrastructure from Beijing's malign influence."
The Commerce Department action affects Huawei affiliates in 21 countries including China, Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, Singapore, Thailand and Britain.
The order blocks any of the companies from acquiring US-based software or technology used in products or components.
"The new rule makes it clear that any use of American software or American fabrication equipment to produce things through Huawei is banned and requires a license," Ross told Fox Business Network.
"So it's really a question of closing loopholes to prevent a bad actor from access to US technology, even as they try to do it in a very indirect, very tricky manner."
No more extensions
US officials said there would be no further extensions for the sanctions waivers from the Commerce Department which had been allowed to minimise disruptions.
That could mean Huawei handset owners might no be able to get updates to the Google Android operating system, nor would updates be allowed for wireless networks using Huawei equipment. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Commerce Department official told reporters the only exception would be for updates related to cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
But the official offered no details on specific equipment or software updates.
The Commerce Department will review any request for a license or waiver and that this "would be reviewed to determine whether it would advance our national security interests," the official said.
by Rob Lever, AFP