Five Eyes alliance reportedly looping in Germany, Japan against China

Chinese foreign interference is causing the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to expand informally to other nations, according to Reuters.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Five Eyes alliance has reportedly been spending 2018 trading classified information with other nations on Chinese foreign interference in what Reuters called "a sign of a broadening international front against Chinese influence operations and investments".

According to a report by Reuters, Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand have been looping Germany and Japan in on information about China and Russia.

"Consultations with our allies, with like-minded partners, on how to respond to China's assertive international strategy have been frequent and are gathering momentum," a US official reportedly told Reuters.

"What might have started as ad hoc discussions are now leading to more detailed consultations on best practices and further opportunities for cooperation."

This followed a statement issued following an August Five Eyes meeting on the Gold Coast in Australia, which said the coalition would use "global partnerships" in its efforts to share information on foreign interference, according to Reuters.

"The officials who spoke to Reuters said the talks have been taking place 'below the radar' and mainly bilaterally. Two sources said France was also involved, but on a less regular and comprehensive basis," Reuters added.

"International coordination has accelerated in parallel with a wave of national measures to limit Chinese investments in sensitive technology companies."

According to the report, officials said there has been a "flurry of consultations" recently between intelligence officials, heads of government, and diplomats, with Canberra "taking a lead role in raising awareness about political interference" and Washington "driving coordination on the investment side", Reuters said.

The report follows the arrest last week of the chief financial officer of Chinese technology giant Huawei Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of Huawei, in Canada on behalf of US authorities.

News of the arrest brought stock markets down globally amid fears of increased tension between the US and China, whose presidents recently announced that they had reached an agreement to halt additional tariffs from being imposed in their ongoing trade war.

Read also: Trudeau denies involvement in Huawei arrest

On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland then confirmed that a second national could be facing trouble in China after the detainment of Canadian diplomat on leave Michael Kovrig in Beijing earlier this week, although she said that Chinese authorities "have not described the situation ... as being a reprisal", and that Canada's relationship with China remains important.

"For Canada, it is important to try to maintain relations with China. And it's important for us to continue to speak with China and to work with China, and that is how it will be possible to resolve difficulties in the end," Freeland said.

"Canada will do everything in its power."

Freeland also warned that the extradition process should only be used to attain justice, and not politicised.

"It ought to be incumbent on parties seeking an extradition from Canada recognising that Canada is a rule of law country to ensure that any extradition request is about ensuring that justice is done, is about ensuring that the rule of law is respected, and is not politicised or used for any other purpose," she said.

When arresting Meng, the US alleged that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran, in breach of US trade sanctions, and misled banks about its business dealings in Iran.

In a statement, Huawei said it has no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Meng, while US President Donald Trump has said he would intervene in the case if it serves national security interests or would help close a trade deal with China.

Earlier this week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told Ambassador Terry Branstad that the US had made an "unreasonable demand" to Canada of detaining Meng while she was passing through Vancouver, China's foreign ministry said.

"The actions of the US seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty," Le told Branstad, comments similar to those he made to Canada's ambassador the night before.

"China will respond further depending on US actions."

Since at least 2016, the United States has been looking into whether Huawei shipped US-origin products to Iran and other countries that were in violation of US export and sanctions laws, Reuters reported in April.

Companies are barred from using the US financial system to funnel goods and services to sanctioned entities.

In February, the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence to the Senate Intelligence Committee also recommended that Americans not use products from Huawei.

In July, Huawei wrote to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arguing that the nation should not miss out on its market-leading technology, and pointed out that its exclusion would drive up consumer costs for mobile services.

Huawei's 5G equipment has so far been banned or limited by the US, Australia, and New Zealand, while the UK's BT last week announced it would be stripping Huawei from EE's mobile core.

Meanwhile, Japan is reported to be contemplating banning Huawei from government purchases.

Nikkei has also reported that SoftBank has replaced the Huawei technology in its 4G LTE network in Japan, instead going with equipment from Nokia and Ericsson.

"The hardware will be replaced over the next few years. SoftBank is the only telecom carrier in Japan that uses Huawei equipment," Nikkei reported.

"The carrier is also expected to place orders with the two European companies for its 5G networks."

Updated at 1.42pm AEDT, December 14: Added SoftBank report

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