Thu | Feb 25, 2021

No evidence of Tapia spy claims – Johnson Smith

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2021 | 4:22 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter
Johnson Smith
Johnson Smith

Citing an absence of compelling evidence in the diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing over espionage allegations in Jamaica, Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said there was no need for her to summon the Chinese ambassador to answer to the claims.

Her disclosure was made in the wake of claims by former United States Ambassador Donald Tapia that the then chief executive of Digicel Jamaica, Allison Cole-Philbert, confirmed that the Chinese were eavesdropping on his calls in 2020.

Digicel has since denied the claim.

Johnson Smith said she did not summon Chinese Ambassador Tian Qi in response to the allegations because they did not clear the hurdle of cogency.

“No evidence of those allegations had ever been presented,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The Chinese Embassy dismissed Tapia’s charges as mischievous and unsubstantiated, arguing that Beijing stood against all forms of cyberattacks. The embassy warned that the United States would not succeed in bullying Chinese technology companies such as Huawei into submission.

Tapia and the Chinese have engaged in a series of attacks and counter-attacks, mainly centred on Jamaica’s perceived cosiness with the Xi Jinping government. The Holness administration has generally steered clear from offending either side.

In reference to the new Biden administration in the US, Johnson Smith reiterated that Kingston and Washington shared a strong, long-standing “partnership and cooperative relationship”.

Replying to questions at Tuesday’s press conference, she said that Jamaica’s interactions with the US did not fundamentally change during the just-ended Donald Trump presidency. She said that bilateral relations with the US has been maintained across administrations “notwithstanding any changes of personality or approach”.

“Jamaica continues to work with the United States as a valued partner, as we do with other valued partners to ensure that we not only pursue policies which support Jamaica’s national interest but also support Jamaica’s participation in the world as a good global partner,” Johnson Smith added.