Ex-foreign minister George Yeo said in March 2019 all countries spy with or without Huawei ban

Yeo believes all major powers pose a threat to small countries.

Andrew Koay| May 23, 10:53 PM

Banning Chinese company Huawei will not effectively deal with the threat of spying, according to Singapore's former foreign minister George Yeo.

This is because "all major powers pose an intelligence threat to small countries," Yeo told the South China Morning Post in an interview that was published on March 31, 2019, but is making the rounds online again in light of the United States clashing more intensely with China over trade.

Yeo was Singapore's foreign minister from 2004 to 2012.

He was also minister for trade and industry from 1999 to 2004.

Worries over 5G legitimate

According to Yeo, worries that a 5G network will expose a country to foreign intelligence efforts are legitimate.

He also added that every country should be taking precautions against this vulnerability.

"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."

US intelligence operations

Yeo also told SCMP that US concerns about Huawei were partly fuelled by the worry that its own intelligence efforts would be scuppered if more countries adopted Huawei's technology.

Referring to American whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of US intelligence operations -- allegedly even going as far as to tap German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone conversations -- Yeo said the following:

"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."

Identify vulnerabilities

For small countries like Singapore, Yeo believes that the solution is not so much in banning individual companies.

Instead, they should identify any vulnerabilities.

"The solution is not to say ‘I ban Huawei’, but to go into smaller granularity about exactly what you are afraid of, what is vulnerable and how to armour-plate those things," he said.

"In the field of intelligence, trust nobody and take your own precautions.”

You can read the full SCMP interview with Yeo here.

Top image Huawei Facebook and George Yeo Facebook