China says Trump should swap iPhone for Huawei amid bugging claim

Image from White House flickr account of President Trump using a mobile phone on Jan 26 2017Image copyright
The White House

Image caption

President Trump insists he only ever uses government-approved phones

China has jokingly suggested that US President Donald Trump should swap his Apple iPhone for a Chinese model, as it denied a report claiming Beijing was bugging his private calls.

The report in the New York Times said that China, and Russia, were intercepting calls made on Mr Trump’s personal iPhone to try to gain an insight into his thinking.

It said aides had warned the president such calls were insecure.

Mr Trump dismissed the report.

In a tweet, he insisted he only used government-approved phones.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying gave a humorous response at a news conference on Thursday.

“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,” she said.

And she suggested a handset from one of China’s biggest phone manufacturers might be more secure.

“If they are really very worried about Apple phones being bugged, then they can change to using Huawei.

“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,” she said.

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Russia also denied the eavesdropping claims.

“We already treat these sort of stories with a certain humour,” said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

In its report, the Times cited current and former officials who said they were frustrated by Mr Trump’s “casual approach” to electronic security.

They said US spy agencies had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s calls from his iPhones and trying to determine what he thinks and how best to sway him.

China and the US – the world’s two largest economies – are engaged in an escalating trade war with each other.

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Earlier this month, China’s US ambassador Cui Tiankai said it was “very confusing” as to whom President Trump listened to on trade policy.

Chinese telecoms firms, including Huawei, have previously come under scrutiny in the US because of spying fears.

In 2012, a US congressional panel said Huawei and ZTE should be barred from any mergers and acquisitions because they posed a security threat to the US. The panel said the firms had failed to allay fears about their links with China’s government and military.

Both firms denied posing any threat in the US.