Despite threats information sharing with the US would be reassessed if New Zealand was to use Huawei technology for its 5G network, a White House official says the country’s place in the Five Eyes network is safe.
Five Eyes is a multinational intelligence sharing alliance involving the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand the United Kingdom.
Last year, New Zealand’s security agency, the GCSB, refused Spark permission to use Huawei as part of its planned 5G upgrade because “a significant network security risk was identified”. There had also been a campaign by the US to push allies away from using Huawei for 5G.
The United States’ deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications Rob Strayer told TVNZ1’s Q+A it would reassess how it shares information with New Zealand if Chinese company Huawei was allowed to upgrade mobile networks to 5G.
“We need to ensure that we continue to maintain robust information-sharing relationships with governments… We also need to be able to protect the information that is in our intelligence channels.
“So we will re-assess how we share information if there are deployed untrusted vendors in 5G networks,” Mr Strayer said.
On if New Zealand’s place in the Five Eyes network would be impacted, Mr Stayer said, “absolutely not”.
“They are part of the Five Eyes. They will, in perpetuity, be part of the Five Eyes.”
Huawei says security concerns about it are politically motivated, but Mr Strayer said the concerns are genuine.
“We know that the US and China are in a trade war at the moment, and effectively in a battle for technological supremacy,” Q+A host Jack Tame said.
“We think that it’s not credible at all to say that a country needs to use Huawei in order to be able to rapidly deploy 5G infrastructure,” Mr Strayer said.
On the US’ own spying habits, including loose managing of personal data from tech companies, Mr Strayer said “there’s a lot of whataboutism here, and comparing things that are not equal”.
“We realise every country is going to make its own sovereign decision about how they are going to protect their 5G networks. The best that we can do — and actually it is our duty to do — is to share with them our views about vulnerabilities related to the systems and the potential threat that could happen by having a government that does not have a rule-of-law system be the vendor for their 5G technology.”
Spark has the option of returning to the GCSB with a plan that addresses its concerns, telling Q+A it was still working through what possible mitigations it could provide and it was yet to make a decision on whether or when it would submit a revised proposal.