Tun Mahathir Future of Asia conference

Speaking at the annual Future of Asia conference hosted by Nikkei in Tokyo on Thursday, Malaysia Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad spoke out against the US ban on Huawei Technologies. He urged the U.S. and China to make concessions in their disputes, warning that “failure to negotiate could lead to military conflict.”

Huawei has achieved tremendous advance over American technology and while the U.S. has long had a strong research and development capability, “they must accept that this capability can [now] also be found in the East,” he said.

“If I am not ahead, I will ban you, I will send warships—that is not competition, that’s not the approach that you [the West] should use,” the Malaysian premier said.

“That is threatening.”

When quizzed about the U.S.-China conflict during a dialogue at the conference, Mahathir said, “One thing for certain is that war between the U.S. and China is not a solution.”

The U.S. administration recently put Huawei on a blacklist for foreign companies deemed to be national security threats. The company has been banned from sourcing for components or software from U.S. companies. The ban order saw Google pulling Android support from Huawei, as well as other U.S. companies withdrawing support from the China tech giant including chipmaker Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel.

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The implications of the ban spread beyond American borders, also affecting Huawei suppliers globally that use U.S. products or services.

The U.S Commerce Department, however, later granted Huawei a 90-days temporary general license that scales back restrictions on the company buying U.S. goods, in order to help existing customers.

Some countries including Japan and Australia have taken measures to avoid using Huawei equipment as they roll out 5G mobile networks. Mahathir made it clear that Malaysia will not follow suit.

Responding on whether Malaysia is at risk of using Huawei equipment Mahathir said, “We are too small to have effect on a huge company like Huawei.” “Huawei’s research is far bigger than Malaysia’s research capability. So, we try to make use of their technology as much as possible.”

On concerns over espionage he quipped, “Yes, there may be some spying going on, but what is there to spy in Malaysia, we are an open book.”

“It’s a waste of time,” he continued.

Check out Tun Mahathir’s full keynote speech and dialogue below:

Header image: Yuki Nakao | Nikkei


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