Singapore — In March this year, George Yeo said in an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that to ban Huawei would not solve the issue of spying, since every major country spies on other countries anyway.
He told SCMP, “It is not just Huawei that poses an intelligence threat – all the major powers pose an intelligence threat to small countries.”
At present, due to the recent intensifying trade tensions between the United States and China, as well as the trade ban on Huawei this week, Mr Yeo’s remarks have caught the attention of many again, with his SCMP interview being shared afresh in the light of global developments.
Let’s look at some of the things Mr Yeo, who was Singapore’s minister for trade and industry and then foreign minister from 1999 through 2012, said about Huawei and the whole issue of spying last March.
First, he acknowledged that concerns about security breaches over 5G connections are a “legitimate worry.”
He said, “To be worried that 5G can expose you to foreign intelligence efforts is a legitimate worry, and every country must take precautions.”
But for the former foreign minister, the US, and other countries, pose the same threat as China does.
“It is not just China which may enter your system – the United States and others are also trying to enter your system. If you are a small country, it is very tough because you don’t have all the capabilities.”
He pointed out that when it comes to intelligence, it is difficult to trust practically anyone.
“In the field of intelligence, trust nobody and take your own precautions.”
He recounted how, during his time as a minister, Singapore requested that BlackBerry build a data centre in the country, rather than having the data pass through Canada.
He explained what he believed to be what was behind the US’ concerns about Huawei, that it would curtail the US’ own intelligence capabilities.
“The Americans are so worried about Huawei not only because Huawei represents a possible vulnerability, but because using Huawei also makes it harder for American intelligence to gain access into other people’s systems,” Mr Yeo said.
He also talked about the US’ Prism surveillance system, which was exposed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 as to have tapped the telephone conversations of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, as an example of the extent to which American intelligence has collected information.
This, he said, was the reason why the US has tried to stop Huawei. “If you have a Huawei system it is harder for the Americans to do all this. So we can understand why they are not happy with Huawei.”
This week the fighting between the two biggest economic powers around the globe has intensified. China accused the US of bullying in relation to the ban of Huawei, while the US has, in turn, accused Huawei of lying when it comes to its relations with Beijing.
Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, claims that the data that goes through Huawei is “at risk” of falling into the wrong hands.
He said, “To say that they don’t work with the Chinese government is a false statement,” claiming that Huawei is not only connected with Beijing, but with the communist party of China.
Mr Pompeo alleged that Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei “isn’t telling the American people the truth.”
On the other hand Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on May 22 that “The US use of state power to arbitrarily exert pressure on a private Chinese company like Huawei is typical economic bullying,” and a spokesman for the commerce ministry of China said that the country has the “confidence and ability to protect the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies.” /TISG