Singapore denies improper link-up with China's Huawei

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore will allow US officials to inspect the work of a research institute linked to a Chinese telecoms firm which Washington suspects of espionage, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Mr K. Shanmugam, the foreign minister, told officials on a visit to the US capital this week that no improper transfer of technology took place between the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and Huawei Technologies, the ministry said.

The IME was thrust into the spotlight last month after a report cast doubt on the apparent suicide of one of its former researchers - US electronics engineer Shane Todd, who was found hanged in his Singapore flat in June 2012.

Mr Todd's family says he may have been murdered because of a project involving state-linked IME and Huawei, but both have said that talks on a joint project did not progress beyond preliminary stages.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said on Thursday that Mr Shanmugam stated in Washington that the IME was "subject to rigorous internal audits, and there had been no illegal transfers of technology".

He also reiterated Singapore's pledge to share evidence in the Todd case with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Mr Shanmugam told journalists in Washington that "we are very happy for a US team to come down and look at the (IME) projects, and it will be very clear that there was no transfer of technology".

Mr Todd was winding up a stint with the IME and preparing to return to the United States when he died at the age of 31.

His parents dispute a Singaporean autopsy report that he committed suicide, saying they found computer files linking their son's work to Huawei.

The final verdict on the cause of death will be determined in a coroner's inquest, in which the Todd family can question evidence. No date has been set.

A US congressional committee last year labelled Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecom firm, as potential national security threats that should be barred from government contracts and from acquiring US firms.

The Financial Times reported in February that Mr Todd was working on a project using gallium nitride (GaN), a semiconductor material with military and commercial applications.

Huawei told AFP it was approached by the IME but "we decided not to accept, and consequently do not have any cooperation with IME related to GaN".

"Huawei does not do military equipment or technology nor do we discuss it with partners," it said.

"The development of GaN technology is commonplace across the entire telecommunications industry."