US pushes Korea to drop Huawei deal
US officials have reportedly approached the South Korean government and proposed that they cancel a deal between local mobile network operator LG U+ and Chinese vendor Huawei.
LG U+ awarded a contract to Huawei in October last year which will see the vendor deploy a network upgrade on the operator’s 2.6GHz spectrum.
Speculation that the US government would intervene on the deal began late last year, and it was confirmed to reporters yesterday that the Presidential Office had expressed formal concern to South Korean officials over the Chinese vendor’s security.
A source told a local Korean newspaper: “It is true that the US has made an issue [of the Huawei deal], but it is basically a trade and business deal. It is not supposed to evolve into a diplomatic dispute and we will try to seek an understanding from the US.”
The US holds a longstanding tumultuous relationship with Huawei and last month, Lee Sang-chul, CEO and vice chairman at LG U+, said to reporters: “I wonder whether the issue raised by the US lawmakers is a technical, diplomatic or political one.”
When the deal went through last October, US Senator John McCain said: “The Republic of Korea is not just a close US 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 defence.
“The national security interests of the US are thus directly affected by the integrity of Korea's information networks."
LG U+ has since agreed to carry out opening testing of Huawei equipment, and Korea’s minister of foreign affairs will reportedly meet with the US secretary of state this week to discuss the deal.
Huawei’s security concerns have seemingly divided the telecoms world, with Australia abandoning the Chinese vendor as a partner for its national broadband network roll-out, while Europe has increased its collaboration with the company.