US plans 5G protection conference after spying concerns from Costa Rica

(Reuters) – The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica said on Thursday it planned to organize a regional conference on protecting 5G networks in April next year, days after China rejected cyber-security and spying concerns raised by Costa Rica’s president.

The embassy announcement follows a meeting between the Central American nation’s president, Rodrigo Chaves, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma.

Earlier this month, Chaves told reporters “the country where Huawei is based doesn’t have a solid judicial framework that prevents spying,” prompting China’s local embassy to blast this as baseless and say such statements could undermine economic ties.

In Thursday’s statement, the U.S. embassy also announced plans to work with Costa Rica on identifying threats to public safety including sharing biometric information in real time.

This comes as the historically peaceful Central American nation battles record murder rates, which authorities attribute to international drug trafficking networks.

The embassy also said it would extend its Safe Mobility initiative until December 2024, to facilitate “access to safe and legal routes” to the United States and other countries for eligible Nicaraguans and Venezuelans residing in Costa Rica.

Chaves has called for a regional meeting over record numbers of migrants fleeing poverty or violence and crossing through the dangerous Darien Gap jungle into Central America, hoping to enter the United States.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by Kylie Madry)