Warning about a potential threat to national security, eight US Republican lawmakers have asked US President Barack Obama’s administration to scrutinize a bid by one of the biggest corporations in China to supply telecommunications equipment to Sprint Nextel in the US.
In a letter sent last week to top administration officials, including US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and the director of national intelligence, Lieutenant General James Clapper Jr, the senators expressed concern over claims that the company had sold equipment to the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and had a close business relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in Iran. The senators also said the company, Huawei Co (華為), had close ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army.
“Sprint Nextel supplies important equipment to the US military and law enforcement agencies and it offers a broad array of devices, systems, software and services to the private sector,” wrote the group of senators, including Jon Kyl, Christopher Bond and Susan Collins. “We are concerned that Huawei’s position as a supplier of Sprint Nextel could create substantial risk for US companies and possibly undermine US national security.”
A campaign to block Huawei’s bid to sell equipment in the US would almost certainly aggravate US-Chinese trade relations and intensify a longstanding debate over whether big Chinese companies will be allowed to invest in sensitive industries in the US.
Several Chinese companies, including Huawei, have repeatedly been discouraged or blocked in recent years from buying or investing heavily in US companies because of national security concerns, decisions that have angered Chinese officials and business leaders.
The letter, dated Aug. 18, drew sharp responses from both Beijing and Huawei. Wang Baodong (王寶東), a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, issued a statement saying Huawei was a private company that simply wanted to do business in the US.
“We hope that some people in the US will take a rational approach toward these normal commercial activities rather than do anything to stand in the way by abusing national security concerns,” Wang said in the statement.
Huawei issued its own statement on Friday, saying the Chinese government and military had no control over the company. Huawei also defended itself against past charges that it had infringed on the intellectual property rights of US companies.
“Huawei is disappointed to learn that old mischaracterizations about the company still linger,” company spokesman Ross Gan (顏光前) said.
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