China responded to reports that it was listening in on President Donald Trump’s iPhone calls Thursday by suggesting the U.S. president use a Huawei instead.
Commenting on a New York Times story alleging that spies for Beijing and Moscow have taken advantage of Trump’s frequent use of a personal and unsecure cell phone, China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying referred to the claims as “fake news” while pitching the Chinese handset.
“If they are really very worried about Apple phones being bugged, then they can change to using Huawei,” Chunying quipped, according to BBC News.
The Chinese representative further suggested that Trump “cut off all ties with the outside world” if a new Huawei phone failed to alleviate concerns from U.S. officials.
“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,” Chunying added.
Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to deny the Times’ story, stating he “rarely use a cellphone, & when I do it’s government authorized.”
“I like Hard Lines. Just more made up Fake News!” the president said.
Observant Twitter users were quick to note that Trump’s tweet, as well as most of his others this week, were made from an iPhone.
The New York Times has a new Fake Story that now the Russians and Chinese (glad they finally added China) are listening to all of my calls on cellphones. Except that I rarely use a cellphone, & when I do it’s government authorized. I like Hard Lines. Just more made up Fake News!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2018
While China’s remarks were surely made in jest, experts note that such spying likely isn’t done by targeting the phone itself but parts of the cell network or even call recipient.
The Times added, however, that administration officials feel it is unlikely Trump has inadvertently spilled U.S. secrets while on the phone “because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.”
Leaders from the U.S. intelligence community, including the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the director of national intelligence, warned in 2012 against the use of Huawei phones over risks the company could implant backdoors on behalf of Beijing.
The concern led to the passage of a defense bill earlier this year that included a ban on the use of Huawei products by U.S. government agencies.