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Leaked documents reveal Huawei's secret operations in setting up the North Korean mobile network

Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese technology giant involved in China's President Trump's trade war and blacklisted as a national security threat, secretly helped the North Korean government build and maintain its advertising According to internal records of the Washington Post and persons familiar with the agreement, Huawei has teamed up with a state-owned Chinese company, Panda International Information Technology Co. Ltd., to undertake a number of projects, including at least the Washington Post Area Legislation is eight years old based on previous work contracts, contracts, and detailed spreadsheets taken from a database that records the company's telecommunications activity worldwide. The agreement made it difficult to identify Huawei's involvement.

The tables were provided to the post office by a former Huawei employee who viewed the information as of public interest. The former employee, citing the fear of retaliation, spoke of the condition of anonymity. Two more sets of documents were shared by other people to see the publication of the material. They also talked about the condition of anonymity.

Together, the revelations raise questions as to whether Huawei, which used American technology in its components, has violated US export controls to deliver equipment to North Korea where the isolated regime became in relation to its nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses imposed extensive international sanctions.

The Department of Commerce, which has rejected a statement, has investigated suspected links between Huawei and North Korea since 2016, [2] but never publicly related them . The probe remains active. Regardless, the Department of Justice has charged Huawei with bank fraud and violations of US sanctions against Iran. The company did not plead guilty.

Kim Jong Il and his son, Kim Jong Un, left the company to watch a military parade in Pyongyang in 2010. The late North Korean leader secretly visited Huawei's headquarters in China's mobile network. (Kyodo News / Getty Images / Kyodo News / Getty Ima)

"Huawei is fully committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries and regions where we operate, including all United Nations, United States and European Union export controls and sanctions laws and regulations." in the explanation.

A spokeswoman for the Panda Group, the state-owned parent of Panda International, declined to comment.

Discovery of a The connection between North Korea and Huawei whose activities, ambitions, and alleged ties to the Chinese government have alarmed US and European security officials, will likely lead to even greater distrust among Western nations as to whether the company will be wholly or partially phased out of its next-generation 5G wireless networks. It also comes at a particularly vulnerable time for the Trump administration, which is at odds with Beijing in terms of trade and as the president seeks to resume nuclear negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"Just the fact that you have a connection between Huawei and North Korea that will provoke political and diplomatic problems in Washington," said Evans JR Revere, a former US State Department official focusing on East Asia. "Just when you thought the relationship between the US and China could not get more complicated, and the relationship between the US and North Korea could not get any more complicated, you have this instance of China and North Korea working together to put Korea in a position To make progress Area of ​​potentially sensitive technology. "

A senior high-ranking State Department official who, as others asked for this report, talked about the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, summarized the administration's frustration.

"All this fits together We have a common concern over corporate responsibility and a company like Huawei, which is untrustworthy due to its corporate culture and numerous incidents, indicating a willingness to withdraw or violate laws," said the official. "Working with regimes like North Korea that routinely rob people of their basic human rights is a cause for concern."

Secret Visit to China

Established in 1987 by a former engineer from the People's Liberation Army (Huawei), Huawei has transformed itself from a modest manufacturer of telephone switches into an icon of China's technological expertise – the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Today, it is a "national champion" sponsored by Beijing and doing business in more than 170 countries.

Prior to 2008, North Korea had trouble finding multinationals willing to build a 3G network in such a risky business environment. That ended with the creation of mobile operator Koryolink, which emerged in 2006 from a secret visit by Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, to Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

"This was the time that not only confirmed top leadership, but the interest in working with Huawei has shown that Huawei is the main technology provider," said Alexandre Mansourov, associate professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. which wrote in 2011 about the digital transformation of North Korea. "From that point on, they decided to work with Huawei."

Koryolink was formed by a joint venture between Orascom Telecom Holding, an Egyptian company, and the state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corp. under the name CHEO founded technology. Attempts to reach CHEO were unsuccessful.

A key player was Panda International, part of the well-known electronics giant Panda Group, which sometimes served China's foreign policy. For example, during a visit to Havana in 2001, China's then-president Jiang Zemin Cuba presented 1 million Panda-made televisions and introduced a corporate representative to Cuban leader Fidel Castro who "shook hands and hugged him excitedly," the company said on its website.

Huawei worked closely with Panda, supplying North Korea with base stations, antennas, and other equipment required to launch Koryolink. Huawei and Panda employees worked for years in a cheap hotel near Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.

Huawei was involved in the services "network integration" and "software" as well as at least one "extension project" for Koryolink, the documents show. Managed Service and Network Assurance services have also been provided. A current Huawei employee of The Post, Yin Chao, said he worked on Koryolink's automated recall system in 2012 and 2013, one of several improvements the company has offered North Koreans.

According to a 2008 contract, Panda would transport Huawei equipment to Dandong, a city in northeastern China known for its cross-border trade. From there, it would be taken by train to Pyongyang.

Internal documents show that Huawei has been doing business with a separate Chinese company, Dandong Kehua, which was approved by the US Treasury Department in November 2017 for the export and import of goods and approved from North Korea trade, the US officials to finance Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Dandong Kehua has not publicly addressed the sanctions.

It is unclear what role Dandong Kehua played, if at all, in Huawei's dealings with North Korea, and whether Huawei has done business with the company since it was sanctioned. Attempts to contact the company have been unsuccessful.

Country & # 39; A9 & # 39;

In company-internal documents and among employees, Huawei used code to refer to certain countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Syria. For example, North Korea was listed as A9 in the project database.

"You have done a query for the projects and see Germany, USA, Mexico, instead of a country name you will see A5, A7, A9 and say" What is that? "Said the former employee." I suppose That's because they did not want to say "Iran" or "Syria."

One man recalled Koryolink in "A9" in a semi-private online forum used by Huawei employees last year started in the summer of 2008 before returning to China to provide technical support for the Beijing Olympics, in brackets the man "chaoxian", which means "North Korea", wrote in Roman letters – an obvious effort that Not to mention the country with Chinese characters by the name.

Documents received by the post also illustrate North Korean concern for spying on foreign regime officials and their family members Would use Koryolink. In spring 2008, Orascom and Korea hired Post Huawei to develop a network encryption protocol, noting that, according to the documents, the government would develop its own encryption algorithm.

"Both sides agreed that ordinary people will use them. The standard international mobile phones and specialty users will use a variety of cell phones incorporating locally developed encrypted algorithms. "List the minutes of a meeting in 2008, a document signed by Korea Post chief engineer and Orascom board member.

Encryption." Test Bench "was built by Huawei in Shenzhen, as the documentation shows. According to two familiar with the system, North Korea has also intercepted and monitored all domestic and international calls.

Website 38 North, which closely tracks activities in and with North Korea, described the agreement in a post issued Monday. [19659017] North Korea: & # 39; radioactive & # 39;

Orascom was acquired in 2011 by a Russian company, Vimpelcom, which has outsourced Koryolink to a newly formed subsidiary. This company is now called Orascom Investment Holding and has not responded to requests for comments.

The original joint venture agreement granted Orascom media reports that it has exclusive license to operate the mobile network by 2015, but the North Korean government launched a rival Kang Song in 2013 with another Chinese telecommunications supplier, ZTE. Kang Song quickly replaced Koryolink as the dominant mobile operator in North Korea.

In 2014, the Department of Commerce banned the export of components from the US to Panda, as these parts were made available to the Chinese military "and / or" under US sanctions. Since then, every company that supplies Panda with North Korea-designated telecommunications products that contain at least 10 percent US origin without a license violates the export ban.

Several experts, including the supply chain analysis company Interos, find it probable that Huawei's 3G devices contained American components, although it is difficult to know if they exceeded the 10 percent threshold set by the export regulations.

Huawei was included in the same black list of the Commerce Department. May with officials, citing the company's alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran. Huawei denied violating export controls on Iran or that it poses a security threat, stating that the Trump government is targeting this for political reasons.

Huawei and Panda have vacated their offices in Pyongyang in the first half of 2016. Persons familiar with the matter . During this time, efforts to impose stricter US and US sanctions on North Korea increased. Orascom received a US waiver in September 2018 for the operation of the joint venture Koryolink. Koryolink is now working on older devices, according to a person familiar with the matter, as Huawei is no longer upgrading and servicing.

Officials issued a summons to Huawei in 2016 demanding information about the export of American technology to sanctioned countries, including North Korea. If it turns out that Huawei has violated US sanctions against North Korea, additional sanctions against export control, civil sanctions, forfeiture or criminal prosecution are at risk.

"North Korea is radioactive due to international sanctions in the proliferation world," said James Mulvenon, expert on Chinese industrial espionage and general manager of defense firm SOS International. "Huawei does not want to get caught when it's directly related to North Korea, so they work with other companies like Panda."

The Panda International website is a testament to Huawei's longstanding partnership with Huawei, which continues through 2007. it means – around the time of the Koryolink launch – about "different countries and product sectors". Panda also notes that it is licensed by the Chinese government to "distribute foreign aid".

A mobile phone number listed on Panda's website The sales hotline was linked to a WeChat social media account through which Huawei's products were sold. The manager of the account, Andy Wang, refused to answer questions about his work in North Korea.

Panda headquarters in Beijing seems to be a mere operation, emanating from a grubby commercial tower with a karaoke bar in the basement and a low tower -end nightclub. When a post-reporter visited the office one afternoon in July, it was mostly empty.

A panda manager, whom another employee said was responsible for media inquiries, refused to meet with the reporter and instead locked the office doors.

Shih from Beijing reported. Yuan Wang in Beijing, Heba Mahfouz in Cairo, Reed Albergotti in San Francisco and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

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