U.S. sends veiled warning . . .
The U.S. sent a veiled warning to South Korea about collaborating with Huawei, hinting it might reconsider sharing intelligence on North Korea with Seoul. South Korea is the first country to offer commercial 5G networks nationwide, and one of its telecommunications carriers, LG Uplus, is using Huawei equipment and may rely on Huawei to install the LG network.
Bracing for blowback . . .
The economic fallout from a Huawei ban could be significant. South Korea sends one quarter of its exports to China, and its leading electronics companies, Samsung and LG, depend on China for rare earth imports. South Koreans also remember China’s willingness to retaliate economically after the South deployed a U.S. anti-missile defence system on its soil in 2017. China’s objection led to an official ban on Chinese tourism to South Korea, costing the latter approximately U.S.$6.7 billion in revenue.
Moon stays mum . . .
South Korea will have a tough time choosing between its chief military ally and its top trading partner. President Moon Jae-in has not addressed the issue publicly. Instead, his administration has delegated decision-making authority regarding Huawei to local telecom companies. Meanwhile, public sentiment towards China has worsened since Beijing’s reaction to the missile-defence system deployment. In 2018, two South Korean mobile carriers, SK Telecom and KT, announced they would not work with Huawei. They cited security reasons, but public opinion may have played a role. When President Moon meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in Seoul on Sunday, he will probably have to break his silence. Moon’s dilemma on choosing between the U.S. and China might contain valuable lessons for Canada’s current predicament.
- Business Korea: Huawei fails to expand presence in Korea's 5G equipment market
- South China Morning Post: US pressure on Seoul over Huawei taps into fear of North Korea
- The Asian Forum: South Korean public opinion