US officials attempting to block subsea cable from China to US

29 Aug 2019

Image: Chuck/

The construction of a subsea cable from Hong Kong to the US, which has cost $300m so far, is already well underway.

On Wednesday (28 August), The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials are seeking to block an undersea cable network between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

The cable aims to provide faster internet to citizens in both the United States and China. Subsea cables are very commonly used and carry 99pc of the world’s data traffic.

Construction on the 8,000 mile Pacific Light Cable Network is already underway and is almost complete at this point. The temporary permit for its construction will expire in September, according to The Wall Street Journal. More than $300m has been spent on the build so far.

The project, which has financial backing from Google and Facebook, may be blocked on national-security grounds, which would halt construction.

The cable is also backed by private Chinese telecommunications company Dr Peng Telecom & Media Group Co. At present, Dr Peng is the fourth-largest telecoms company in China.

Team Telecom

The US Department of Justice, is leading a multiagency panel on the subsea cable network. The panel, known as Team Telecom, has objected to the laying of the cable.

Team Telecom has raised concerns about Dr Peng’s ties to the Chinese government and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The panel is also concerned about the landing stations the cables are connected to, which require hardware and software supplied by Huawei.

In a report about Huawei Marine, The Wall Street Journal said: “In theory, China could use that equipment to cut, disrupt, divert or monitor traffic”.

The US director of national intelligence and the department of homeland security recently sponsored a report that warned that these undersea cables could increase the risk that an industry insider could help “disrupt or spy on internet traffic.”

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei Marine said that no government or customer has ever raised a security concern directly with the firm or has asked to carry out security checks on its products.

China claims the US campaign against Huawei is purely political, as Washington has yet to present any evidence that Huawei is involved in espionage. However, the US fears that Chinese legislation obliges companies to cooperate in intelligence operations.

Supporters of the cable believe that approval from Team Telecom would ensure maximum security, as the US Federal Communications Commission could implement more stringent security measures for the companies involved.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic