South Korea Refuses To Join The US Drive Against Huawei

Huawei Logo Smartphones USA US America Flag Illustration AH May 20 2019

The American crackdown on Huawei isn't limited to the nation's geographical boundaries. The Trump administration also wants other countries to ban the beleaguered Chinese telecommunications equipment giant. However, not everyone believes in the US resolve.

During the recently concluded fifth Senior Economic Dialogue between the US and South Korea, Lee Tae-ho, South Korea's second vice foreign minister, sternly rejected the US proposal to ban Huawei from the country's telecom infrastructure.

"The US side explained its position on the matter, and we explained our basic position to them," a foreign ministry official told Korean media after the meeting. "We made it clear that whether a private telecom company uses the equipment of a specific enterprise is up to that company to decide."

"It was not a discussion in the sense that one side asked the other specifically what or whom to exclude, but we talked about the importance of the Clean Network and the issues requested by the US," the official added.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the "Clean Network" program in August. It is essentially a drive to ban Chinese equipment suppliers from global telecom infrastructure. Pompeo called for "all freedom-loving" countries to join this initiative.

The US has labeled the two major South Korean mobile carriers – SK Telecom Co. and KT Corp. – that do not use Huawei equipment as "clean" telecommunication firms. However, LG Uplus Co. still does and America wants Seoul officials to pressurize the carrier to cease relations with Huawei. But that seemingly isn't happening, as the recent discussions didn't go entirely smoothly. Keith Krach, the US under-secretary of state, was the chief American representative in the meeting.

South Korea rejects US proposal to ban Huawei

The American government is using its global influence and economic prowess to convince other countries to ban Huawei equipment from their telecom infrastructure. And such is the power of the Trump-led administration that many countries have actually gone on to do so.

The US claims that any data with Huawei is not safe. It believes the Chinese government may have access to all data on Huawei servers. This poses a huge risk to national security. However, not all countries are buying this claim and South Korea is one of them.

Interestingly, Lee and Krach did not talk about Economic Prosperity Network (EPN) during the meeting held earlier this week. EPN is another US initiative that aims at shifting global supply chains away from China. However, they have reportedly agreed to hold the fourth annual public-private economic talks later this month. Discussions around China could be the focal point of that meeting as well.