Blue House admits U.S. pressure on Huawei dealThe Blue House confirmed yesterday the U.S. government had officially raised security concerns over Korea’s plan to allow the entry of Chinese phone-network equipment giant Huawei Technologies into Korea.
But the presidential office said the Korean government would take a “business-wise” approach to the matter regardless of U.S. pressure. The confirmation from a high-ranking official at the Blue House came after the Daily Beast, an American news website, reported on Friday the U.S. government was pressuring the Korean government to stop a pending deal between Huawei and Korea’s LG U+, the smallest mobile service operator.
LG U+, a telecom arm of LG Group, the nation’s fourth-largest conglomerate, decided in October to use equipment from the Shenzhen-based Huawei to build its wireless long-term evolution (LTE) base stations across Korea.
The United States is apparently worried that China would exploit its telecom equipment maker, the world’s second-largest, to get intelligence on U.S. forces in Korea.
“It is true that the U.S. has made an issue [out of Huawei advancing into Korea], but it is a basically a trade and business deal,” the Blue House source told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “It is not supposed to evolve into a diplomatic dispute and we will try to seek an understanding from the U.S.
“No country is free from telecommunications needs,” the source said, “and if [the Huawei deal] is the kind of transaction that poses a problem for the U.S., the global trade system might just as well shut down.”
LG U+ said in December that its deal with Huawei won’t compromise security and went on to say it would submit to a security test by an overseas agency on the Chinese equipment to ease concerns from the United States.
Huawei, which depends on overseas markets for 70 percent of its revenue, has provided equipment to 45 of the world’s top 50 mobile operators in about 140 countries. The company already began supplying wired equipment to Korean telecom players in the mid-2000s. This is the first time it is selling LTE equipment here.
The Daily Beast reported that U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised the issue with Prime Minister Jung Hong-won during his trip to Korea in early December, citing two sources briefed on the meeting. The White House’s National Security staff has asked the U.S. intelligence community to study the effects of the Huawei-Korea deal on American security interests.
Senator John McCain went so far as to send a statement to the Daily Beast to show his opposition to the deal and pledged that Congress would act if Korea went through with it.
“The Republic of Korea is not just a close U.S. ally; it is a country in which 28,500 Americans in uniform are serving on the front lines and ready to fight in Korea’s defense,” McCain was quoted as saying. “The national security interests of the United States are thus directly affected by the integrity of Korea’s information networks.
“Given the serious concerns that our government has with Huawei and its alleged ties to the Chinese government,” he continued, “a Korean decision to give Huawei a major stake in building out the country’s telecommunications infrastructure would go over very badly in the United States and the Congress.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se is expected to discuss the matter in a summit with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday in Washington, according to local diplomatic sources. Yun left on the U.S. trip yesterday.
The United States is not in a good position to complain about possible security risks in foreign telecommunications. It was embroiled in an international diplomatic crisis in October following revelations that its National Security Agency tapped the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for more than a decade as part of a surveillance program that also targeted at least 34 other government leaders.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]