Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. reportedly helped build North Korea’s commercial wireless network, a revelation sure to increase scrutiny of a company already banned from doing business in the U.S.
According to unnamed sources and documents obtained by the Washington Post, Huawei worked with a Chinese state-owned firm called Panda International Information Technology Co. to provide the equipment North Korea needed to launch its Koryolink network.
Huawei was involved in “network integration” and “network assurance” services for the North Korean wireless network, according to the Post. The company’s work with Panda reportedly spanned at least eight years, and the arrangement helped obscure Huawei’s involvement.
Huawei disputed the report, saying in a statement to The Times that “Huawei has no business presence in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
“Huawei is fully committed to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries and regions where we operate, including all export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, U.S., and EU,” the company said.
Two years ago, President Trump issued an executive order allowing the Treasury Department to ban anyone conducting “significant trade in goods, services and technology” in North Korea from accessing the U.S. financial system. “Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that, going forward, they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a U.N. General Assembly press briefing in September 2017.
Huawei has been at the center of the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China since May, when the U.S. banned the firm from doing business in the country. U.S. authorities have alleged fraud and theft of trade secrets against Huawei and one of its company executives, and also tried to persuade European countries against including Huawei in 5G networks. Huawei has denied the allegations.
Last month, the U.S. banned five Chinese tech companies from buying U.S. components without government permission.
In return, China has reportedly started compiling a list of so-called unreliable entities. One of the firms listed may be FedEx, after the U.S. courier company misdirected or returned Huawei packages twice. In addition, both China and the U.S. have levied tit-for-tat tariffs on goods including agricultural products and metals.