WASHINGTON Dec 3 The heads of two U.S. 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 U.S. 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. U.S. 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
"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
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
"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 U.S.
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.
Democratic Senators Robert Menendez, chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dianne Feinstein,
chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said media
reports on Huawei's supply deal with LG raised concerns in light
of the close security alliance between the United States and
"Maintaining the integrity of telecommunications
infrastructure is critical to the operational effectiveness of
this important security alliance," they said in a letter to
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry
and James Clapper, President Barack Obama's Director of National
The letter, dated Nov. 27 and obtained by Reuters on
Tuesday, underscores how intertwined the communications
industry has become with concerns about security.
Last year, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee urged U.S.
telecoms companies not to do business with Huawei and its local
rival ZTE Corp because it said potential Chinese
state influence on the companies posed a security threat.
Both firms have denied they have links to the Chinese
Menendez and Feinstein said they were "very interested" to
receive the administration officials' assessment of "potential
threats and security concerns" about Huawei's involvement, as
well as any discussions the U.S. government has had with the
South Korean government about the importance of network
integrity related to the decision.
A senior administration official declined to discuss details
of diplomatic discussions involving Seoul, but added, "We do
have concerns about Huawei."
The official noted Huawei was excluded in October 2011 from
taking part in the building of a U.S. wireless emergency
response network due to national security concerns.