Gillard denies damage to Beijing relations

Julia Gillard has has rejected claims that Australia has harmed
its relationship with Beijing by banning Chinese technology giant Huawei
from helping to build a high-speed Internet network as a result of security concerns.

Speaking after she returned from a nuclear summit in South Korea, the prime minister said she would not comment in detail on she insisted were “ultimately are national security matters.”

She said her government’s decision was the right one and had not breached any international trade rules or agreements with China.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner and a free trade agreement between the two nations is currently under negotiation.

Gillard said: “It is a decision open to the Australian government. We’ve taken it for the right reasons through the right process based on the right advice about a piece of critical infrastructure for our nation’s future.”

The move came after Australia banned Chinese technology giant Huawei from bidding to help build a nationwide high-speed Internet network due to concern about cyber attacks traced to China.

Gillard said the move was amid “prudent decisions” to ensure the planned network functions properly. But she acknowledged that Beijing disagreed with that decision.

The United States and Australia announced plans in September to include cyber security in their 61-year-old defence agreement, the first time Washington has done that with a partner outside NATO.

Gillard said Australia had a “strong, robust” relationship with China that would continue to “strengthen and grow.”

She said: “In China, people also make decisions about their nation’s future and who should be involved in the rollout of their own telecommunications. They want to make those decisions for themselves, completely understandably. So do we.”

Huawei has rejected suggestions it might be a security risk saying it had won the trust of global telecommunications companies.

The ban highlights concern about Beijing’s cyber warfare efforts, a spate of hacking attempts aimed at Western companies and the role of Chinese equipment providers, which are expanding abroad.

In 2010, Huawei was blocked from taking part in upgrading a US phone carrier’s network and last year was forced to unwind its acquisition of an American computer company after a security panel rejected the deal.

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