Australia forks out millions to keep Huawei out of Pacific undersea cable project

Australia's Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull

Australia has agreed to fund underwater internet cables and a cyber security centre for the Solomon Islands, forestalling plans by Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies that were feared could have compromised Australian internet security.

The arrangement was announced on 13 June in a joint-statement from the two governments during a visit to Canberra by Solomons Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela.

Houenipwela was quoted by the ABC as saying last week that the contract signed with Huawei in 2017 was scrapped because of “concerns raised” by Australia.

Until Australia stepped in, Huawei had planned to lay the cables for the Pacific archipelago nation, which could ultimately have given the Chinese company access to a broadband hub in Sydney. Analysts say that would have raised a ‘red flag’ for Australian internet security.

“I would not elaborate on security issues, that’s not appropriate,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Canberra. “What we have offered the Solomon Islands, and they have accepted, is an alternative to the offer, and ours is cheaper.”

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