Sydney, Australia, Aug 11 (EFE).- New Zealand’s intelligence agency on Friday condemned foreign interference carried out by China and Russia, among other states, in the Oceanian country and warned of their “significant” ability to harm national security.
In a report published Friday, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) said that “there are a small number of states who conduct foreign interference in New Zealand but their ability to cause harm is significant” and cited three countries “in particular” – China, Iran and Russia.
“New Zealand’s geographic position in the Indo-Pacific, our links with other Pacific countries, and our shared interests in a stable, peaceful, prosperous, and resilient home region will draw the attention of foreign intelligence services who want to inform foreign governments on New Zealand’s government policy and strategy in the region,” the document said.
The report was published amid growing concern regarding the security and stability of the strategic South Pacific region, following the signing in 2022 of a security and military cooperation pact between China and the Solomon Islands that includes the possible dispatch of security forces Chinese at the request of Honiara.
NZSIS said it is “aware of ongoing activity in and against New Zealand” linked to Beijing.
New Zealand and Australia – which are historically the influential powers in the region – have in the past denounced foreign meddling and cyberattacks by individuals or groups linked to China.
The main targets of interference activities in New Zealand are migrants who may be viewed as dissidents by a foreign state, NZSIS said, adding that “these communities can receive unwanted and unjustified attention from foreign states who conduct malicious activities designed to threaten and disrupt their peaceful life.”
While the spy agency has detected interference activity from a number of foreign states, it said “most notable is the continued targeting of New Zealand’s diverse ethnic Chinese communities. We see these activities carried out by groups and individuals linked to the intelligence arm of the People’s Republic of China.”
Likewise, NZSIS pointed out that foreign intelligence agencies “persistently and opportunistically conduct espionage operations against New Zealand both at home and abroad,” on the government primarily, but also on companies, research institutions and government contractors.
The information they aim to steal is increasingly broad, ranging “from military capabilities to sensitive intellectual property, or even personal information is being sought in order to gain strategic advantage.”
The report also briefly notes that disinformation campaigns by Russia have increased since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and that sanctions “have likely hindered its development of new technologies and encouraged it to use more covert methods of acquiring essential components.”
New Zealand intelligence also warns of the risk of more aggressive “societal interference” by Iran against dissident communities living in New Zealand.
This report is the first comprehensive assessment NZSIS has made of the various threats facing New Zealand such as terrorism and violent extremism, foreign interference, espionage and cyber-attacks. EFE