The Justice Department has asked the Federal Communications Commission to delay red-stamping Sprint’s planned $20 billion deal with Japan’s SoftBank, saying it wants to study the national security implications.

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The FBI and Homeland Security Department “are currently reviewing this matter for any national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues but have not yet completed that effort,” a Justice Department lawyer said in a letter to the FCC.

“We therefore request that the Commission defer action until such time as the Agencies notify the Commission of the completion of their review and, based on the results of such review, request appropriate action by the Commission,” the letter continued.

Sprint, for its part, characterized the request as routine.

“This is a routine request when working with the [U.S. government] agencies regarding national security,” Sprint said in a statement.

The No. 4 U.S. carrier, T-Mobile, is already in foreign hands as a unit of Deutsche Telekom, while Verizon Wireless is partly owned by Vodafone.

The request from the DOJ was reported earlier Tuesday by Bloomberg. Dish Network, which like Sprint is bidding for Clearwire, has also asked the FCC to hold off on approving the Softbank deal.

Sprint is still aiming to close the deal in mid-2013.