Alliance cooperation led by the U.S. to keep China in check has now expanded to submarine cables. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Monday that the U.S., Japan, and Australia decided to strengthen their cooperation for submarine cables used for data communication in response to China’s growing influence.
According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the governments, businesses, and research institutions of the three countries held an unofficial meeting last month and decided to strengthen their cooperation for submarine cables. Measures to expand information sharing about China’s movements regarding submarine cables and jointly fund submarine cable projects in strategically important regions were proposed at the meeting.
Submarine cables are responsible for 99 percent of international communication. As they can be hacked or blocked, the cables are considered critical infrastructure in terms of security. While the U.S., Europe, and Japan account for about 90 percent of the entire market, China’s presence is growing in the sector with Huawei becoming the No. 4 player in the market.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the trilateral cooperation is being spurred by China. China has been engaging in economic cooperation with and providing aid to developing countries while actively laying undersea cables in various places under its Belt and Road Initiative to create a huge economic bloc. The Chinese companies are believed to use low costs as leverage to win contracts, apparently with the government’s financial backing, according to some observers.
The U.S., Japan, and Australia will support submarine cable projects of their own or partner countries with the support of government-affiliated financial institutions in each country. In January, NEC of Japan won a contract to build a submarine cable connecting Palau, one of the Pacific island nations, with the U.S. The project will be financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation as well as government agencies in the United States and Australia.