US Reportedly Urges Stricter Measures on China’s Chip Access

The US government has reportedly urged certain allied countries to introduce more stringent measures to limit China’s ability to tap into semiconductor technology.

People familiar with the matter said US President Joe Biden’s administration has pressed the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, and Japan to take the move, which seeks to fill gaps in the export sanctions it imposed in 2022 and keep the Asian country’s domestic chip development in check.

Washington has requested Japanese companies to curb their exports to China of specialized chemicals used in building chips, including photoresist, according to the people. JSR Corp. and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. are some of the several Japanese firms leading the supply of the light-sensitive material.

In the Netherlands, the US has allegedly proposed to The Hague a cease of ASML Holding NV’s services and repairs to semiconductor gear bought by Chinese customers before this year’s implementation of the restrictions on selling such devices.

The call received a pragmatic response from the two key chipmaking equipment countries. They argued that they first need to look into the impact of their existing controls before exploring the possibility of stricter actions.

The report also said the US Department of Commerce officials discussed the matter in February at an export sanctions meeting in Japan.

The Dutch foreign ministry, the Japanese Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and representatives of ASML have all declined to comment. The Commerce Department has yet to provide a comment.

US’s Escalating Chip War with China

In the last two years, the Biden administration has pressured China’s semiconductor industry, with Washington introducing extensive export prohibitions on cutting-edge chipmaking machines and artificial intelligence (AI) chips.

Japan and the Netherlands participated in the move in 2023. However, there are still gaps in the rules, particularly in the two countries’ ability to continue repairing semiconductor gears and in the transport of spare parts vital to chipmaking equipment.

ASML is required to hold a license to serve and fix barred gears in the Asian country, but the people stated that the Netherlands appeared to have been slightly lenient on approval, and the US is pressing it to tighten its policy.

The US government was unable to anticipate the unveiling of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s Mate 60 phone series in August last year. The Chinese smartphone giant has equipped the device with the Kirin 9000S chip built at home, which was more advanced than where it attempted to stop China’s progress.

Following the launch, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said they would take the toughest measures.

Republican policymakers at the same time proposed completely banning Huawei and its partially state-owned partner, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), from accessing US tech resources.

The Biden administration is also calling for Germany and South Korea’s participation in its latest push, as they, too, house key firms in the semiconductor supply chain.

According to the people, Washington has urged German Carl Zeiss AG, a German manufacturer of specialized glass and an optical components supplier for ASML, to stop shipping those gears to China.

It has discussed chip export limits with South Korea as well since it is a leader in chip production and supply of spare parts for semiconductor equipment.

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