The South Korean government has decided to route sensitive data away from networks operated by Huawei, amid longstanding fears from the US that the Chinese company's infrastructure could be used to spy on communications. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the US had been urging its South Korean allies to route government communications away from Huawei networks, claiming that the infrastructure could be used to spy on communications with American military bases there. As a result, Huawei equipment will not be used at any American military base in South Korea.
The Obama administration denies playing a role in the decision, and South Korean officials have not commented. The Journal reports that the White House made a point of keeping the talks private because it didn't want to be seen as meddling in its ally's business affairs.
White House denies influencing South Korea's decision
"While the United States has expressed concerns in the past, these decisions were made by the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea alone," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told the Journal.
This week's report comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off a six-day tour of the region, where territorial disputes between China and its neighbors have raised diplomatic tensions. On Thursday, Kerry met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss a wide range of issues, including cybersecurity and the North Korean nuclear program.
US officials have long been wary of Huawei's influence, with officials claiming that its equipment could be used for corporate or government espionage on behalf of China. Huawei has repeatedly denied the charges, though they appear to have had an impact on its business. Australia blocked the company from bidding on a major contract in 2012, citing security concerns, a year after US officials issued a similar denial. Last year, the company pulled out of the American networking market due to vaguely defined "geopolitical reasons."