The intelligence chief was speaking to an audience at the Home Office in London. He warned the UK faces an ongoing threat from hostile foreign intelligence agencies, terrorism and countries seeking to interfere in our electoral process.
Mr McCallum warned Russia is sending Britain “bursts of bad weather” but China will “chance the climate” when it comes to national security.
The MI5 head explained: “If the question is which countries’ intelligence services cause the most aggravation to the UK in October 2020, the answer is Russia.
“If, on the other hand, the question is which state will be shaping our world across the next decade, presenting big opportunities and big challenges for the UK, the answer is China.
“You might think in terms of the Russian intelligence services providing bursts of bad weather, while China is changing the climate.”
Ken McCallum named Russia and China as the biggest threats facing the UK
“China is changing the climate”
Relations between the UK and both China and Russia have deteriorated sharply over the past few years.
Earlier this year London condemned a new Chinese security law that strips Hong Kong, a former British colony, of much of its autonomy.
In response the Government announced Hong Kong residents entitled to British National Overseas Passports, including all those born in the territory prior to 1997, could move to the UK for an extended period with a route open to full citizenship.
Beijing also reacted with fury after Boris Johnson announced technology from Huawei, a Chinese company, will be banned from Britain’s 5G network from 2027 over national security concerns.
Britain blamed Russia for the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal
In 2018 Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence operative turned double agent, and his daughter were poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury.
Two UK nationals, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, were later poisoned with the same substance.
Ms Sturgess later passed away in hospital aged 44.
It has been reported the couple came across a container of the poison used in the initial attack.
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China has been cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong
Police at the scene of the November 2019 London Bridge terror attack
Britain publicly accused Moscow of being behind the poisonings and expelled a number of Russian diplomats.
In total 153 Russian diplomats were expelled across the west with European and American diplomats ordered out of Russia in retaliation.
Mr McCullum also spoke about the terrorist threat to Britain arguing there has been a rise in far-right plots.
Referring to the far-right he said: “We operate entirely the same system as on Islamist extremist terrorism, with cases pursued by the same counter-terrorist professionals within the same part of the MI5 and police machine, operating to the same thresholds, prioritized on the basis of threat and risk rather than ideology.
“This threat is not, today, on the same scale as Islamist extremist terrorism. But it is growing.”
However, the MI5 chief also emphasised the competence of Britain’s security services in dealing with the threat.
He commented: “Those threats are becoming more diverse and in some ways harder to spot.
Tributes to those killed in the 2019 London Bridge attack
“We face a bit of a nasty mix—terrorism isn’t going away, and state-backed hostile activity is on the rise.
“But let’s not make these people 10 feet tall.
“Based on hard experience, the UK has a mature national security system, MI5 is a capable member within a genuine team.”