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Asia Insight

China-Australia friction intensifies deep in the South Pacific

Tug of war over submarine internet cables carries high security stakes

FUMI MATSUMOTO, Nikkei staff writer | Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands

SYDNEY -- They are the arteries of the modern global economy. Undersea cables, to put it simply, make the internet work. And for the most part, they are out of sight and out of mind -- though not for the governments of China, Australia and Western allies.

More than 95% of the world's telecommunications traffic flows through a mere 200 or so cables laid in the oceans. Companies from the U.S., Europe and Japan installed 85% of them, but China is eager to become a major player. This could add another dimension to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative and, if critics are right, give the country an espionage and military edge as well.

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