Taiwan and the US have made a joint declaration that calls for “rigorous” checks on 5G kit to prevent interference from foreign governments.
In the declaration - made by officials from Taiwan's de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT); Taiwan's Foreign Ministry; and National Communication Commission - Taiwan said it joined the US in "keeping technology systems clean and free of un-trusted vendors to promote security of nations by protecting sensitive data of our citizens and companies from authoritarian governments."
The move comes as part of Washington's increasing efforts to keep vendors it deems dubious - essentially Huawei and ZTE - out of 5G networks worldwide. In April, Washington announced the "5G Clean Network" plan, what Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has described as "the Trump administration's comprehensive approach to guarding our citizens privacy and our companies' most sensitive information from aggressive malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party."
The first step of the plan, the 5G Clean Path, also announced in April, aims to block untrusted vendors from accessing US diplomatic systems. This was then extended this month to include five other key areas: carriers, undersea cables, cloud computing, mobile app stores, and the apps themselves.
Taiwan has not formally signed up for the whole Clean Networks plan. Nonetheless, the joint declaration calls for a "rigorous" evaluation of 5G hardware and software suppliers on criteria such as whether they are subject "to control by a foreign government", whether they are "financed openly and transparently", whether they have "transparent ownership, partnerships, and corporate governance structures," and whether they have "a commitment to innovation and respect for intellectual property rights."
"Protecting these next-generation communications networks from disruption or manipulation as well as the privacy and individual liberties are vital to ensuring our economies are able to take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities 5G will enable," the statement announcing the declaration read.
Director of the AIT, Brent Christensen, said: "Trust cannot exist if our telecom vendors are subject to authoritarian governments, like the People's Republic of China, which lacks . . . the rule of law and whose legit privacy protections result in security vulnerabilities."
Washington has carefully watched Taiwan since the mainland Chinese government imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong that that cracks down on dissent and saw state secret police stationed on the autonomous territory for the first time.
Taiwan asserts it is a sovereign nation, but China claims it is a rogue province. Whatever its status, Taiwan has become increasingly strategic for the US, not least because it is home to chipmaker TSMC, which produces around half the world's made-to-order silicon chips. Adopting secure 5G will give the US administration, and buyers, more confidence that designs made by TSMC will be harder to obtain by nefarious means.
Washington recognises Taiwan as one of 30 "clean "countries". Taiwan has excluded Chinese companies from its telecoms infrastructure since it introduced 4G in 2014. But the government has increased its scrutiny of mainland companies with a raft of new regulations that block Chinese companies from acquiring sensitive technologies from Taiwan and banned video streaming providers from operating through local partners. ®