The poster child for China's tech industry, Huawei had secretly helped North Korea build and maintain its commercial wireless network using American technology, the Washington Post claims to have learned from leaked internal documents.
The documents purportedly included work orders and spreadsheets taken from a database of Huawei's international telecom operations dumped by a former Huawei employee.
According to them, the WaPo claims, Huawei worked with a Chinese state-run tech firm, Panda International Information Technology, on projects in North Korea over the course of eight years.
Huawei – the world's biggest manufacturer of telecom equipment – is accused of having provided "network integration" and "software" services for North Korea's wireless provider Koryolink, and also developed an encryption protocol to protect the North's officials from foreign eavesdroppers.
The arrangement between Huawei and Panda International made it challenging to recognise Huawei's involvement, the report said.
A significant concern, in this case, is whether Huawei had violated US export controls by deploying the US-made technology in North Korea as part of its products, as Pyongyang is subject to international sanctions over its nuclear pursuits and alleged human rights violations.
Huawei Denies Doing Business With North Korea
A spokesman for Huawei maintained that the firm "has no business presence" in North Korea, but refused to address the company's possible past record in the North, as well as to identify the documents as fake or authentic.
"Huawei is fully committed to complying 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 United Nations, United States and European Union, the spokesman said.
The US Commerce Department, which did not comment on the report, has been investigating alleged links between Huawei and North Korea since 2016. It subpoenaed the company in 2016 during an investigation into its dealings in the sanctions-hit Iran, North Korea and Syria, and the probe is still active.
A Troubled Year
The anti-Huawei crusade has become one of the chapters of the US-China year-long trade war. The US is worried that Huawei could be spying on users and stealing commercial secrets on behalf of the Chinese government, but the company insists that it is entirely independent of Beijing.
Despite Huawei’s reassurances, the Trump administration has banned its products from use in the government, blacklisted the company as a national security threat, and pressured allies to ban Huawei from their nascent 5G networks.
The senior executive and daughter of Huawei’s founder, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada at Washington’s behest and is fighting extradition to the US, where she faces charges of intellectual property theft and violating US sanctions on Iran.
Donald Trump has indicated that he might use Huawei as a bargaining chip in his trade dispute with China, and trade talks are still underway.