GCSB Minister Andrew Little has suggested information he received in a briefing on Huawei's activities in Britain is at odds with comments from Britain's own head of National Cyber Security.
Reuters has reported that National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) head Ciaran Martin told a cybersecurity conference in Brussels overnight that while Britain had yet to decide on its security policy for national 5G networks, Huawei equipment was subject to detailed oversight and strict controls over where it was used.
"Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei," Martin told the conference.
Asked later whether the United States had provided Britain with any evidence to support its allegations that Huawei presented a security risk, Martin told reporters: "I would be obliged to report if there was evidence of malevolence ... by Huawei. And we're yet to have to do that. So I hope that covers it."
Martin told the conference Britain had the means to manage any risk.
"From our point of view ... if you look at the detailed paper we're publishing, we set out the way we manage the risks."
The NCSC is part of Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency, the equivalent of New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau.
Little indicated today that what he was briefed about differed from Martin's comments.
"I think two things he said is that no evidence of malicious use and that they think they can manage Huawei technology in a network in a way that doesn't compromise security," Little told RNZ.
"When I was in the UK at the end of last month I met with the senior officials of some of their agencies, including the head of the GCHQ. It wasn't quite the briefing that I got about [Huawei].
"Without disclosing the detail of that conversation, what I say is that I came away from that conversation comfortable with the advice I had received from the GCSB here in New Zealand," Little said.
Little also said the issue had not made a "blind bit of difference" to the relationship between New Zealand and China.
"I think if you look at the rest of the relationship that New Zealand has with China in terms of trade and things getting across the border and tourists coming here and students coming here, it hasn't made a blind bit of difference."
The United States has been attempting to convince its allies to ban the Chinese telecoms giant from high-speed telecommunications systems due to security risks.
The Financial Times also reported earlier this week that the British Government had concluded it could mitigate the risk from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks.
Spark is working to mitigate any possible risks before going back to the GCSB with a revised strategy for using Huawei in its 5G network after the GCSB initially assessed it posed a security risk.
- With Reuters