US Embassy: China telecoms vendors cannot be trusted

In a statement issued yesterday, Daniel Durazo, the public affairs officer at the United States Embassy in The Bahamas, said telecom vendors subject to the governance of the People’s Republic of China cannot be trusted.

“As Secretary of State Pompeo has said, allowing untrusted, high-risk vendors into telecommunications networks makes critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation, and espionage, and puts sensitive government, commercial, and personal information at risk,” he said.

“Countries need to be able to trust that equipment and software companies will not threaten national security, privacy, intellectual property, or human rights. Trust cannot exist where telecom vendors are subject to an authoritarian government, like the PRC, that lacks an independent judiciary or rule of law that would effectively prohibit this misuse of data.”

Durazo’s comments came after an article in the UK Guardian claimed that China used mobile phone networks in the Caribbean, including the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), to surveil US mobile phone subscribers.

In the story, Gary Miller, a Washington state-based former mobile network security executive, claimed that the attacks, which emanated from China between 2018 and 2020, affected “tens of thousands of US mobile users”.

The article states, “Miller also found what he called unique cases in which the same mobile phone users who appear to have been targeted via China Unicom also appear to have been targeted simultaneously through two Caribbean operators: Cable & Wireless Communications (Flow) in Barbados and Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).

“The incidents, which occurred dozens of times over a four to eight-week period, were so unusual that Miller said they were a strong and clear indicator that these were co-ordinated attacks.”

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in The Bahamas vehemently denied those claims on Tuesday, labeling them “another attempt of US to sow discord between China and Caribbean countries”.

The embassy said China does not support cyberattacks and accused the US of hypocritically “playing dirty” to maintain a competitive edge.

However, Durazo yesterday underscored the comments of Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, who called China-based vendors such as Huawei and ZTE “corrupt”.

Durazo said: “That’s why the US is promoting the Clean Network initiative.

“As Undersecretary of State Keith Krach has said, “In the area of global technology security, the Clean Network serves as a model of turning the tide against the [Chinese Communist Party] CCP surveillance state and corrupt vendors such as Huawei and ZTE.

“The Clean Network is a growing alliance of democracies and companies coming together to safeguard national security, intellectual property, and personal data from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, like the Chinese Communist Party.’”

Tensions have been high in recent years between the US and China, particularly as countries seek to develop 5G wireless networks.

The Trump administration has been particularly aggressive on the issue, with US officials urging its allies not to use equipment from China in their networks.

Earlier this year, US embassies were prohibited from conducting business with companies that use equipment manufactured by Huawei and ZTE.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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