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UK’s MI6 to be ‘more open to stay secret’, says chief in 1st public speech, calls China priority

MI6 chief Richard Moore expressed his desire to 'judiciously change' the idea that it is unusual for the chief of a secret intelligence service to give public speeches.

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New Delhi: Adapting to a world affected by the rise of China is MI6’s “single greatest priority”, the British military intelligence agency’s chief Richard Moore said Tuesday in his first-ever public speech. 

Moore said intelligence organisations like the United Kingdom’s MI6 must become “more open, in order to stay secret”, and expressed his desire to “judiciously change” the idea that it is unusual for the chief of a secret intelligence service to give public speeches.

Addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Moore spoke at length about the identities and nature of the threats his organisation currently faces, naming Russia, China, Iran and international terrorism as the four main longstanding “priorities within the intelligence community”.

“We need MI6’s global network of secret human relationships more than we have ever done in an increasingly contested international landscape. The tectonic plates are shifting as China’s power and its willingness to assert it grows,” Moore added. 

The MI6 head elaborated on the rise of China and the threats it poses to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, despite the trade, investment and cultural links between the two countries. “The fact remains that China is an authoritarian state with different values from ours. This is reflected in the threats we see emanating from the Chinese state that coexist with these opportunities for cooperation,” he stated. 

Moore hit out at Chinese intelligence’s “espionage operations”, alleging that they target the UK and its allies working in government industries, as well as members of the Chinese diaspora. 

Moore also criticised China for its actions against Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and reiterated the MI6′s position on the country. 

“This is not just about being able to understand China and Chinese decision-making… We want other countries to be clear-eyed about the debt traps, data exposure and vulnerability to political coercion that arise from dependency on relationships where there is no recourse to an independent judiciary or free press,” Moore said. 

Similarly, the MI6 chief provided further details on the threats posed by Russia, Iran and international terrorism, adding that he is “immensely proud” of his officers’ contributions to the “Afghan mission” against al Qaeda.

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‘Paradox at play’

Addressing the fact that it’s unusual for a secret service chief to speak in public, Moore explained: “It’s an important part of the way that we hold ourselves to account within a democracy…the changing nature of the threats that we face requires a greater degree of openness from a modern intelligence agency. There is a paradox in play here.” 

As part of this “paradox”, Moore announced a cultural shift within the MI6, in the form of new partnerships with technological companies and expanding the agency’s workforce.

“Unlike Q in the [James] Bond movies, we cannot do it all in-house…our future workforce must represent the very best of British talent and be as diverse as the population we serve,” he added.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: In trying to save the world, James Bond just saved the franchise


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