The China leak, and why Theresa May just fired her defense secretary – Washington Examiner
British Prime Minister Theresa May fired her defense secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday. The decision follows Williamson’s suspected leak from a recent national security council meeting on China.
Specifically, he stands accused of leaking the council’s decision to allow the Chinese telecommunications business, Huawei, to provide some of the less-sensitive elements of Britain’s 5G telecommunications network. Williamson, an ardent pro-American, opposed that council decision and evidently hoped that he could see it overturned by publicizing it.
Still, this decision will cast a shadow over U.S.-UK relations in advance of President Trump’s state visit to London in June. With the support of the British intelligence community, U.S. has been pushing the British government to reject any Huawei 5G involvement. The U.S. rightly regards China as its keystone threat in the 21st century. While more trusting of May than her predecessor on China-related issues, the U.S. remains concerned that Britain is too deferential to Beijing.
Another complication: The Times also reported last month that the U.S. has shared intelligence with Britain which shows direct Chinese intelligence service involvement in Huawei’s operations. The report is credible: Huawei is both a business and an intelligence cutout or intermediary for the Chinese military and its intelligence service. Leaking that U.S. intelligence will also have aggravated Washington. After all, British officials often claim that they’re better at keeping American secrets than vice versa.
What happens now?
Well, May will likely want to consolidate the U.S. against its fears here. It is probable that Huawei’s access to the U.K. market will be further limited. The prime minister has replaced Williamson with a Navy reservist, Penny Mordaunt. While not as good as Rory Stewart would be, Mordaunt represents a safe choice.