US concern over Huawei telecoms deal with South Korea

US concern over Huawei telecoms deal with South Korea
A general view shows the headquarters of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, Guangdong province June 29, 2009.

WASHINGTON - The heads of two US Senate committees overseeing national security have expressed concern to the Obama administration over a recent network supply deal between China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Washington ally South Korea.

South Korea, which hosts some 28,000 US soldiers to deter potential provocation from North Korea, said Huawei's deal to supply mobile network equipment does raise security concerns, but it had no immediate plan to look into the issue. US Vice President Joe Biden is due to visit Seoul later this week as part of a broader Asia trip.

LG Uplus Corp, South Korea's third-largest mobile carrier, added Huawei to its fourth-generation mobile network vendor list in October to boost competition. It was already working with Samsung Electronics Co, Ericsson and Nokia's telecoms gear unit.

"There is a security concern when you purchase telecoms equipment from foreign suppliers. It's not just limited to one specific company," said Lee Dong-ho, an official in charge of telecoms network regulation at the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

"But they are providing equipment in accordance with local regulations, and we also have authorities and proper systems in place aimed at monitoring any security breaches. We don't have any plan to look into Huawei's deal at this point," the official said.

His minister, Choi Mun-kee, told lawmakers in late October "There's not much the government can do about private companies doing business with Huawei, but there is security concern (involving such deals)."

LG Uplus has said Huawei, the world's second-largest telecoms equipment maker, would supply equipment, but LG would directly manage and operate the system.

"Unlike some other foreign countries, we directly manage and control our network," LG Uplus said in a recent statement on the Huawei deal.

"Japan's Softbank Corp also has been using Huawei equipment for more than two years, but their government hasn't raised any issues as they operate the system like we do."

Huawei, whose overseas expansion has stumbled in recent years largely due to security concerns raised by US politicians, said those concerns were groundless.

"Our gear is world-proven and trusted, connecting almost one-third of the world's population. The motivations of those that might groundlessly purport otherwise are puzzling," Huawei said in a statement to Reuters.

"Huawei has a proven track record of providing secure products and solutions to our customers. There has never been one incident where Huawei's commitment to security has ever been called into question."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese companies like Huawei, operating overseas, respect all laws and regulations and contribute to economic development.

"We hope that relevant countries can look upon the commercial activities that Huawei and other Chinese enterprises engage in abroad fairly and impartially, and refrain from politicizing this issue at every turn," he told reporters.

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