Pen­tagon fears lis­ten­ing posts from China

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ELI LAKE

A Pen­tagon re­port has found that a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany that has been seek­ing to make ma­jor in­roads in the U.S. mar­ket has close ties to China’s mil­i­tary, de­spite the com­pany’s de­nials.

The Pen­tagon’s an­nual re­port to Congress on China’s mil­i­tary, re­leased last month, iden­ti­fies Huawei as a high-tech com­pany linked to the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA).

“The ship­build­ing and de­fense elec­tron­ics sec­tors, ben­e­fit­ing from China’s lead­ing role in pro­duc­ing com­mer­cial ship­ping and in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, have wit­nessed the great­est progress over the last decade,” the re­port states. “In­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar, in­clud­ing Huawei, Datang, and Zhongx­ing, main­tain close ties to the PLA.”

That last sen­tence prompted Huawei’s vice pres­i­dent for ex­ter­nal re­la­tions, Wil­liam Plum­mer, to write a let­ter last week urg­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta to re­scind the al­le­ga­tion.

“This ref­er­ence has no ba­sis in fact and un­justly per­pet­u­ates an aura of doubt and dis­trust around Huawei that has the ef­fect of prej­u­dic­ing po­ten­tial U.S. cus­tomers away from the prod­ucts and so­lu­tions that will mod­ern­ize our com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture,” Mr. Plum­mer wrote.

At is­sue for Huawei is wide­spread con­cern among U.S. mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that Huawei’s switches, chips and firmware con­tain “back doors” that can give China’s mil­i­tary the equiv­a­lent of lis­ten­ing posts all over the U.S. telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture.

Huawei’s de­fend­ers have coun­tered that the com­pany is be­ing sin­gled out be­cause it is based in China and that U.S. com­pa­nies such as Cisco Sys­tems con­tract the de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of their equip­ment to for­eign coun­tries and are at the same risk for back doors as the gear sold by Huawei.

In the past four years, Huawei has tried to ac­quire Amer­i­can high-tech com­pa­nies and win con­tracts to build up the U.S. 4G wire­less net­work. The com­pany’s ef­forts, how­ever, have run into re­sis­tance from the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

In 2008, the Trea­sury Depart­ment-led Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the United States blocked a pro­posed sale of the soft­ware com­pany 3Com to Huawei, based on na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Last year, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency urged ma­jor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies such as AT&T and Sprint to can­cel a deal that would put Huawei firmware and hard­ware on the cell towers of the 4G wire­less net­work.

“U.S. busi­nesses and gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties should be very wary of en­ter­ing into busi­ness with any of the com­pa­nies iden­ti­fied by the Pen­tagon’s re­port on Chi­nese mil­i­tary power as hav­ing ties to the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army,” said Dan Blu­men­thal, a res­i­dent fel­low at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute and a for­mer China pol­icy of­fi­cial at the Pen­tagon.

“The re­port is vet­ted by the sec­re­taries of state and de­fense and the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. It rep­re­sents the con­sen­sus view of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity,” Mr. Blu­men­thal said.

In his let­ter to Mr. Panetta, Mr. Plum­mer said: “Huawei has al­ways op­er­ated and con­tin­ues to op­er­ate, in­de­pen­dent of any own­er­ship, con­trol, or link­age with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or mil­i­tary.”

He added that Huawei’s equip­ment has “been au­dited and passed the se­cu­rity re­quire­ments of 45 of the top 50 global telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions op­er­a­tors. No cus­tomer or gov­ern­ment has ever found any vari­ance from in­ter­na­tional stan­dards at any time, in­clud­ing those ma­te­rial to na­tional se­cu­rity.”

Huawei was founded in 1988 by Ren Zhengfei, a for­mer PLA engi­neer. The com­pany has pro­vided wire­less net­work prod­ucts to many coun­tries in the Third World and more re­cently has helped build the wire­less net­work for the United Kingdom.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A tech­ni­cian con­ducts a cell­phone test at the Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co. Ltd. head­quar­ters in Shenzhen, a south­ern Chi­nese city bor­der­ing Hong Kong. The Pen­tagon con­tends the com­pany’s prod­ucts are be­ing used by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

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