Danish media are reporting that the Chinese government threatened to cancel a trade deal with the tiny Faroe Islands if the country does not agree to use internet networks supplied by Chinese tech company Huawei.
Huawei is at the center of a global cybersecurity debate, with the U.S. warning it could allow the Chinese government to snoop on consumers. Huawei denies that.
China and the U.S. are also in a global battle over trade and technological supremacy, and control over the 5G internet market is considered key.
Danish media cited an audio recording made Nov. 15 by the local broadcaster as it prepared to interview the islands' trade minister. The hot mic recording picked up a private conversation between the minister, Helgi Abrahamsen, and his aide.
In it, the aide allegedly explains to the minister how the Chinese ambassador, Feng Tie, had in a meeting four days earlier threatened to pull a trade deal if the Faroe telecoms operator did not choose Huawei to build its 5G internet networks.
The Faroe broadcaster had planned to broadcast the audio but a local court quickly issued an injunction - requested by the Faroe government. The injunction banned the airing of the recording, claiming it might damage relations between China and the country, a tiny nation of barely 50,000 people that is part of Denmark but enjoys broad autonomy.
In Denmark, broadcaster DR and daily Berlingske reported Tuesday about the case. DR said it ``is familiar with the contents of the audio file,'' but declined to specify whether it had heard it directly. Berlingske could not be immediately reached for more information.
Bardur Nielsen, the Faroese ' premier who attended the Nov. 11 meeting with the Chinese ambassador, has said he will not discuss the case. The Chinese embassy could not be reached for comment.
China's state-run paper Global Times cited the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, as saying that the claims “are completely false and have ulterior motives.”
On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it was up to the Faroe Islands, located midway between Scotland and Iceland - to decide who should provide the new-generation 5G network but they are welcome to seek advice in Denmark.