Australia Pressures Solomon Islands To Drop Huawei Equipment

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Australia successfully pressured the Solomon Islands to drop Huawei from its list of Internet infrastructure suppliers, having agreed to largely finance an undersea high-speed cable connecting it to the country, with the new development being announced shortly after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with political leaders from South Pacific in London earlier this week. Canberra is understood to be worried about losing its influence in the region to China, with Huawei being by far the largest technology company in the Far Eastern country. Papua New Guinea will also be connected via the same cable and will contribute to the project financially together with the Solomon Islands, though Australia is understood to be covering the majority of related expenses, with the installation of the cable being set to be completed by 2019.

The Solomon Islands initially approached the Asian Development Bank to finance the project whose value was estimated to be in the ballpark of $70 million but later announced Huawei will be the one to pay for the cable. ADB then withdrew its support of the buildout, citing a lack of transparency. Australia and its allies — the United States, in particular — are worried about the security implications of Huawei's equipment that they believe is either being leveraged by Beijing to spy on other countries or could be abused in such a manner going forward due to the high level of influence China exerts on its companies, even those which aren't formally state-owned. A number of U.S. intelligence chiefs were recently warning Australia against relying on Huawei for any kind of infrastructural deployment, especially in the context of the fifth generation of mobile networks.

Huawei has already been banned from launching infrastructural tender bids in Australia in 2012 but managed to maintain a presence in the country to date, largely through partnerships with privately owned wireless carriers. The tech giant is presently facing scrutiny on a global level, with Washington publicly warning its allies against using Huawei-made equipment due to spying concerns that the Chinese firm repeatedly dismissed as baseless, claiming it's running its business independently of Beijing.

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