Huawei wireless deal with South Korea prompts US concerns

Huawei logo outside company building
Image caption Huawei has faced increased scrutiny in some countries in recent times

A reported deal between Chinese firm Huawei and South Korea to develop the country's broadband network, has prompted concerns in the US.

Two US senators have written to the Obama administration saying any such deal raised "potential security concerns" for the US.

There have been concerns in Washington over Huawei's association with the Chinese government and military.

But the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied those allegations.

The worries over its association with the Chinese authorities have been driven, in part, by the fact that the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei, was a former member of the People's Liberation Army.

However, Huawei has stressed that it is 98.6% owned by its employees.

Security issues

The latest concerns come after reports indicated that Huawei, which is one of the world's biggest telecom network equipment makers, had been chosen to help develop South Korea's wireless broadband network.

However, Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Dianne Feinstein of California, wrote a letter to the US government last week raising concerns over the impact of such a deal on US security.

Various media reports cited them as saying in the letter that the choice of Huawei to "develop and/or supply the Republic of Korea's advanced LTE telecommunications backbone raise[s] serious questions and potential security concerns".

"As you know, the US-Republic of Korea [South Korea] alliance is a cornerstone for US strategic engagement in Asia, and has served as a bulwark against North Korean aggression for the past six decades.

"Maintaining the integrity of telecommunications infrastructure is critical to the operational effectiveness of this important security alliance," they added.

The letter was sent to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Previous concerns

In 2011, the US launched a review into Huawei over concerns it spied for China's government.

Last year, a US government report warned against allowing Huawei to supply critical telecom infrastructure, though it had found no evidence of espionage.

Australia's government has also cited security concerns around the Chinese firm. In October this year, it maintained its ban against Huawei from tendering for the country's national broadband network.

However, the Chinese firm has been expanding in some other Western economies.

In September 2012, the firm announced plans to invest £1.3bn in expanding its UK operations. Huawei said it would invest the funds over five years in areas such as mobile broadband.

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