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Friday, February 14, 2014

Wireless Threat -- White House, State not pressing South Korea to avoid using suspect Chinese telecom gear -- By Bill Gertz, The Washington Free Beacon

Obama administration security officials say President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are not strongly opposing a South Korean plan to use Chinese telecommunications gear in an advanced wireless network, thus increasing concerns of cyber spying espionage against U.S. military forces in the country.

U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon the threat of Chinese cyber espionage in South Korea was raised earlier this month in Seoul during the visit there by National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander.

Alexander, who also heads the military’s U.S. Cyber Command, urged South Korean military and intelligence counterparts not to allow the construction of a new wireless telecommunications network to include gear from China’s Huawei Technologies Co.

U.S. investigators have linked Huawei to the Chinese military and intelligence services. The global telecom equipment maker has been banned from several U.S. telecommunication company purchases and equipment deals since the early 2000s over concerns its gear poses communications security threats.

Officials said the security threat in South Korea is compounded by the presence of 28,500 U.S. troops. The fear is that cell phone communications of troops will be intercepted by Chinese intelligence, sifted for military and war fighting data, and possibly shared with North Korea, Beijing’s close regional ally.

One official said South Korean officials so far have not taken U.S. concerns about Huawei equipment seriously. The South Koreans initially viewed the U.S. security push not to use Huawei equipment as a trade issue. And South Korean officials have said the issue was also not taken seriously because messages were not delivered by senior or mid-level White House National Security Council or State Department officials.

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