China’s Huawei Technologies said on Thursday it had received planning permission to build a 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) research and development facility in England. The facility will employee around 400 people and focus on the production of optical devices for use in fibre-optic communication systems, the company said in a statement.
The move will anger U.S. officials and some British lawmakers who are pushing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reconsider a January decision to grant Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G networks. Washington says Huawei equipment can be used by Beijing for spying; a charge the company denies. British officials now say they are reviewing the specific guidance on how Huawei equipment should be deployed in light of new U.S. sanctions on the company announced in May. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Huawei said the plans were part of an effort to develop a 500-acre site near Cambridge, around 70km (43 miles) north of London, and boost investment in the area. “The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talents the world has to offer,” said Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang.
Speaking ahead of the decision on Tuesday, U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach accused China of using similar schemes to expand its influence. “They donate money, hire grads, and burnish their PR credentials. Then comes bullying, coercion, and expansion of the surveillance state,” he said in a tweet.