President Donald Trump signed Wednesday an executive order on communications- and cyber-security that could see Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei prevented from selling its products in the United States.
While the order does not refer specifically to any countries or companies, it is clearly aimed at Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, and comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The order "declares a national emergency with respect to the threats against information and communications technology and services in the United States," the White House said in a statement.
Trump took action to thwart "foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States," the White House said.
Under the new policy, the secretary of commerce is authorized "to prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security," according to the statement.
The Commerce Department moved Wednesday to add Huawei to its Entity List, meaning that the company will be required to obtain licenses for the export or re-export of products featuring "sensitive technologies."
The executive order represents an intensification of US efforts to blunt Huawei's advantage in 5G technology, which promises to provide much-faster Internet speeds that could facilitate the development of autonomous vehicles and enable remote-control surgery.
Washington has been trying to persuade other nations to shut out Huawei from 5G projects, but the campaign has struggled to gain traction even with close US allies.
The US says that Huawei often operates as an extension of the Chinese military and intelligence services and that the company's role in 5G could create opportunities for spying.
Huawei insists that it operates independently from the Chinese government and denies any involvement in espionage.
The Chinese tech giant's head of marketing said earlier Wednesday that a US ban on the use of its products would not hurt Huawei.
"Our business in the US is not very big, and we are a company with global operations," Wang Tao said in a press conference in Beijing hours before the White House announcement.
He stressed that Huawei was present in 170 countries and regions.
Wang added that some governments had confused technical issues related to cyber security with political and ideological problems, which was "not constructive" for any side.
"Viewing a company as a threat to the security is not a good way to move forward. This is not helpful in building cyber security in intelligent societies of the future," he said.
A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told reporters Wednesday that the executive order had no relation to the broader trade war with China.
Trump said Monday that he was prepared to impose tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports to the US.
Those comments came after China increased from 10 percent to 25 percent the tariffs it levied last year on $60 billion worth of US imports.
Beijing was retaliating for Trump's decision last week to enact an identical increase in the US import duties applied since last year to $200 billion worth of Chinese products.