Pentagon is now pushing to ban sales of Huawei and ZTE phones in retail outlets on and around U.S. military bases, both domestical and foreign, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing official confirmation from the Department of Defense. "Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department's personnel, information, and mission," a Pentagon spokesperson said, adding that the federal agency opted to push for the ban as it isn't "prudent" of retail outlets catering to U.S. military officials to sell such products. The move is yet another step in Washington's attempts to block some of China's largest technology companies from doing large-scale business in the country and around its allies, primarily due to national security concerns.
While Huawei has recently been the major target of that protectionist policy, with stateside lawmakers and regulators reportedly pressuring AT&T into dropping its planned retail partnership with the company this January, ZTE is presently under an even larger threat from the U.S., though not due to direct security concerns but the fact that it allegedly broke the terms its 2017 settlement with the Commerce Department meant to put an end to an investigation into its violations of American trade sanctions imposed on Iran to which it pleaded guilty last year. As a result, the federal agency recently banned it from purchasing any kind of hardware or software from U.S. companies, including Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips and Google's Android operating system, with the move effectively killing ZTE's mobile ambitions over the next seven years, less it's overturned.
Industry sources are claiming Pentagon is still concerned Beijing could pressure Huawei and ZTE into tracking U.S. military personnel via their devices, as well as spy on their clients through such smartphones and their wireless infrastructure. Both companies repeatedly denied those claims, though the new directive issued by the Army & Air Force Exchange Services will effectively see their products banned from any retail outlet in the vicinity of a U.S. military base. While ZTE is a publicly traded and Beijing-owned entity, Huawei says it's owned by its employees, yet its convoluted corporate structure remains one of the main reasons why Washington has been accusing it of a lack of transparency for over a decade now.