Malaysia backs Huawei against the United States

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad praised Huawei Technologies Co., snubbing the Trump administration’s global campaign against the Chinese network gear maker.

The Southeast Asian country will use Huawei’s gear “as much as possible” as they offer “tremendous advance over American technology,” Mahathir, 93, said at a forum in Tokyo on Thursday. The U.S. has blacklisted Huawei, saying its equipment poses a security threat and could facilitate spying by the China’s government.

Mahathir’s public comments add to signs U.S. efforts to win allies against Huawei are flopping in some countries that are prioritizing development of 5G wireless networks, a specialty of China’s biggest technology company. While complicating a trade war between Washington and Beijing, the U.S. blacklisting of Huawei has also pressured telecom operators around the world to decide whether to shun the company.

This week, Singapore-based mobile phone carrier M1 Ltd. said it’s open to more dealings with Huawei, while flagging that there will be alternative providers as well for 5G infrastructure. A day later, Japan-based SoftBank Corp. selected Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB as vendors for its next-generation wireless network, excluding long-time supplier Huawei.

Axiata Group Bhd., Malaysia’s biggest wireless carrier, said it is still working with Huawei on network technology, while it hasn’t decided on partners for introducing 5G services, the Star newspaper reported Thursday, citing comments by the carrier’s Chief Executive Officer Jamaludin Ibrahim.

Mahathir has praised Huawei before. He visited the company’s Beijing office in late April.

“We found that Huawei is very advanced” in the use of artificial intelligence, he said at the time. “We see there is an opportunity for us, together with Huawei, to improve our capacity in the fields of communication and AI.”

Outside Asia, the U.K.’s BT Group Plc announced plans to remove Huawei gear from the core of its mobile network soon after the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 said the U.K. warned about the risks of using Chinese equipment.

Now read: US-China conflict could “last our careers” – Economists

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Malaysia backs Huawei against the United States