Japan unveils export control plans for chip equipment

Published : 31 Mar 2023 08:50 PM

Japan on Friday unveiled plans to control exports of 23 items used to make semiconductors, following US pressure for countries to impose restrictions to contain China.

The announcement comes after the Netherlands implemented similar restrictions this month, prompting a rebuke from China.

The Japanese measures aim to "prevent the military diversion of technologies", trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters.

Tensions are growing in the global microchip market, with Western officials raising the alarm over the provision of core components to increasingly adversarial trading partners.

The Dutch government announced its plans for new export rules following pressure from the United States to restrict Chinese access to the technology. Japan had been expected to take similar steps with its ally Washington also reportedly urging the country to impose controls.

The trade ministry said the move was not targeted at any specific nation, however, with Nishimura saying Japan "intends to play a responsible role in the international community" as a country with advanced memory-chip technology.

The ministry will now solicit public opinion on the measures, which are expected to come into force from July.

About 10 major companies including Tokyo Electron and Nikon will be affected by the new measures, Jiji Press reported, citing unnamed government sources.

The United States in October announced export measures aimed at curbing China's ability to buy and make high-end chips with military applications.

They included restrictions on some chips used in supercomputing as well as stricter requirements on the sale of semiconductor equipment.

At the time, the US commerce department said those moves were to prevent "sensitive technologies" from being acquired by China's military, intelligence and security services.

In response, Beijing filed a dispute with the World Trade Organisation accusing Washington of threatening global supply chains.

And it called the Dutch move the result of "bullying and hegemony" by the West.

To no longer rely on foreign imports for its chips, Beijing has sunk billions of dollars into building up its own semiconductor industry over the past decade. Japan also said Friday that top diplomat Yoshimasa Hayashi will visit China this weekend, the first such visit in more than three years.

As the world's second and third-largest economies, the nations are key trading partners.

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been fraught in recent years, with Japan wary of China's growing military power in the region.

But last November, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of a summit in Bangkok and pledged to continue high-level contact.