WASHINGTON – The Trump administration moved against letting China Mobile Ltd. enter the U.S. telecommunications market, saying the government-owned company would pose national security risks.
The Federal Communications Commission should deny China Mobile’s application, submitted in 2011, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said in a filing distributed by email on Monday. NTIA is a branch of the Commerce Department.
The U.S. and China have quarreled this year over trade, and U.S. officials have alleged that China engages in widespread theft of intellectual property. The U.S. is set to impose tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods on Friday, and another $16 billion may follow. China has vowed to retaliate in kind. President Donald Trump has also threatened additional tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports that could be implemented if China imposes counter-measures.
The U.S. intelligence community and other officials found that China Mobile’s application “would pose unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks,” according to the NTIA filing.
China Mobile, owned by China Mobile Communications Corp., “is wholly owned by a sovereign state, the People’s Republic of China,” the agency said in the filing.
“China Mobile is vulnerable to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government,” according to the filing.
China Mobile was the world’s largest mobile phone operator in 2011, with more than 649 million subscribers, according to the filing. China Mobile said it wanted to offer international voice traffic between the U.S. and foreign countries, and didn’t intend to offer mobile service within the U.S., according to the NTIA filing.
“The deepening integration of the global telecommunications market has created risks and vulnerabilities in a sector replete with a broad range of malicious activities,” the NTIA said in its filing.
The Chinese government could use links established by China Mobile for economic espionage and intelligence collection, according to the filing. Customers could include fixed and mobile network operators, calling card companies, and business customers.
Officials had “significant engagement” with China Mobile but weren’t able to resolve concerns, David Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information at NTIA, said in a news release.
FCC spokeswoman Tina Pelkey said the commission would review the filing.
The Trump administration blocked Chinese telecom gear maker ZTE Corp.’s access to U.S. suppliers in April, saying the company violated a 2017 sanctions settlement related to trading with Iran and North Korea and then lied about the violations. The U.S. in June reached a deal to allow ZTE to get back in business after the Chinese telecommunications company pays a record fine and agrees to management changes.