Germany will phase out components made by China’s Huawei and ZTE from its 5G wireless network over the next five years, a move that risks worsening its already strained relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

Mobile network operators including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica have agreed to remove the components from their 5G “core networks” — which are connected to the internet and operate as control centers — by the end of 2026.

By the end of 2029, these components must also be purged from “access and transport networks,” which include the physical parts of the 5G network such as transmission lines and towers.

“In this way, we are protecting the central nervous systems of Germany as a business location — and we are protecting the communication of citizens, companies, and the state,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement Thursday. “We must reduce security risks and, unlike in the past, avoid one-sided dependencies.”

In the same statement, the German government underlined the importance of “secure and resilient telecommunications infrastructure,” given the “dangers of sabotage and espionage.”

“In order to avoid critical vulnerabilities and dependencies, trustworthy manufacturers must therefore be relied upon,” it added. CNN has contacted Huawei for comment but could not reach ZTE.

The decision could further strain Germany’s relationship with China, its biggest trading partner. Last week, Berlin blocked the sale of a Volkswagen subsidiary to a Chinese state-owned company on national security grounds, drawing a rebuke from Beijing. China is also locked in a trade spat with the European Union, which hiked tariffs on Chinese electric cars last month.

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that “turning economic, trade and technological issues into politics will only disrupt normal technological exchanges.”

Germany has been dragging its feet for years over what to do with Huawei components in its 5G network after the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan effectively banned the company from building their 5G networks amid fears that Beijing could use Chinese tech companies to spy on their citizens.

The US also placed Huawei on a trade restriction list in 2019, which made it harder for the company to obtain semiconductor chips from American suppliers. Those restrictions were tightened further earlier this year.

According to Huawei’s annual report, Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 21% of its revenue last year.

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