Malaysia's Mahathir backs Huawei in rare public rebuke of US

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will use Huawei's gear "as much as possible", as they offer "tremendous advance over American technology". PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came out in support of Huawei Technologies Co, the Chinese technology giant blacklisted by the United States amid claims the group aids Beijing in espionage.

Malaysia will use Huawei's gear "as much as possible", as they offer "tremendous advance over American technology", Tun Dr Mahathir said at a forum in Tokyo on Thursday (May 30).

The public comments by Dr Mahathir are a snub to the Trump administration's campaign against the telecommunications network-gear maker.

They also signal US efforts to win allies against Huawei are flopping in some countries that are prioritising development of 5G wireless networks, one of the firm's specialities.

The targeting of Huawei by the US has also complicated the trade war between Washington and Beijing, leaving telecoms operators around the world to decide whether to shun the Chinese equipment maker.

This week, Singapore-based mobile phone carrier M1 said it is open to more dealings with the Chinese company, 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.

Dr Mahathir had also visited Huawei'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, Britain's BT Group announced plans to remove Huawei gear from the core of its mobile network soon after the head of foreign intelligence agency MI6 said Britain warned about the risks of using Chinese equipment.

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