Semiconductors

Japan Joins US Chip War Against China With Export Restrictions

 

Japan said on Friday it will restrict exports of 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, aligning its technology trade controls with a US push to curb China’s ability to make advanced chips.

Japan, home to major chip equipment makers such as Nikon and Tokyo Electron, did not specify China as the target of the restrictions, saying manufacturers would need to seek export permission for all regions.

“We are fulfilling our responsibility as a technological nation to contribute to international peace and stability,” Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference.

 

Also on AF: Huawei Beats US Sanctions With Chip Tool Breakthrough

 

Japan wants to stop its advanced technology being used for military purposes and does not have a specific country in mind, he said.

But the decision, coming ahead of a weekend visit to Beijing by Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi, will be seen as a major win for the US, which in October announced sweeping restrictions on access to chipmaking technology to slow China’s technological and military advances.

“Politicising, instrumentalising and weaponising economic and technological issues, and artificially disrupting the stability of global production and supply chains will only harm others and harm themselves,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a briefing when asked about Japan’s new export rules.

 

Impact on China

Effective July, Japan will impose export controls on six categories of equipment used in chip manufacturing, including cleaning, deposition, lithography and etching.

Chinese firms “will lose access to more products from Japanese companies that produce chipmaking equipment. Chinese fabs (chip plants) are mostly focused on mature nodes by now, which this isn’t supposed to effect, but we’ll have to see how this plays out,” said Stew Randall, who tracks China’s chip sector at Shanghai-based consultancy Intralink.

The controls are likely to affect equipment made by at least a dozen companies, such as Screen Holdings and Advantest, though minister Nishimura said he expected limited impact on domestic firms, without elaborating.

A Nikon spokesperson said sales of two of its lithography machines will likely be affected, though the earnings impact was unclear.

“We will continue to comply with any rules and work to maximise our results within them,” the spokesperson said.

Tokyo Electron, Advantest and Screen also said they will follow the new export restrictions, but did not say what impact the control could have on their businesses.

 

Impact on Japanese chip industry

The curbs will be a blow for Japanese equipment makers given the absence of a strong domestic chip market, Takamoto Suzuki, head of economic research for Marubeni in China, said.

“It will undermine the market development of Japanese companies and certainly reduce their competitiveness from a regulatory aspect,” Suzuki said.

Japan once dominated chip production but has seen its market share slip to about 10%. Still, it remains a major supplier of chipmaking machines and semiconductor materials. Tokyo Electron and Screen make around a fifth of the world’s chipmaking tools, while Shin-Etsu Chemical and Sumco produce most silicone wafers.

“If you take a long-term view, the effect will be diminished, with new semiconductor plants coming into operation in places like the United States and Japan,” Takahiro Shinada, a professor at Tohoku University, said.

Following the announcement, Nikon’s share price rose 0.9%, in line with the wider market, while Advantest finished up 2.4%. Tokyo Electron and Screen were little changed from the previous day.

Also on AF: Nvidia Tweaks Another Flagship AI Chip for Export to China

 

Win for the US

The US needs the cooperation of industry heavyweights Japan and the Netherlands for its chip war to be effective and to ensure its companies do not face a competitive disadvantage.

Those two countries in January agreed to join the US in restricting exports to China of equipment that could be used to manufacture sub-14 nanometre chips, but did not announce the pact to avoid provoking China, sources have said previously.

A nanometre, or one-billionth of a metre, refers to a semiconductor industry technology, with fewer nanometres generally meaning more advanced chips.

The Netherlands this month said it planned to restrict the export of chipmaking equipment, such as from ASML which dominates the market for lithography systems used to create chips’ minute circuitry.

China has accused the US of being a “tech hegemony” and urged the Netherlands not to follow it.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena

 

Also read:

 

China Banks on Boot Camps, Double Pay to Boost Chip Talent

 

Money Alone Can’t Rescue China’s Chip Sector, Experts Say

 

ASML Suppliers Plan to Cut China Exposure As Chip War Heats Up

 

US Sanctions on China to Hit Dominance of Chips: TSMC Founder

 

ASML Accuses China Employee of Chip Tech Theft – FT

 

China Warns Dutch of ‘Consequences’ to Chip Tech Ban – SCMP

 

 

Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at vishakha.saxena@asiafinancial.com

Recent Posts

China’s Theft of Trade Secrets Our No1 Concern: US Patent Chief

The US official said US businesses operating in China regularly complain about insufficient protections and…

4 hours ago

Intel Set to Unveil Reduced-Performance AI Chips for China

The news comes after the US outfit came under fire at the weekend after it…

5 hours ago

US Reviewing Trade Sanctions to Tackle China Supply Chain Threats

White House trade chief Katherine Tai will tell lawmakers the administration is even looking at…

7 hours ago

Baidu Says AI Chatbot ‘Ernie’ Has 200m Users A Day

'Ernie Bot' is China’s most popular chatbot. Baidu earned several hundred million yuan using AI…

9 hours ago

Nissan Eyes Solid-State EV Battery Breakthrough by 2029 – AP

While rivals claim to be further ahead in the race to develop the next generation…

11 hours ago

China Sees Surprising GDP Growth, But Weak Demand in March

China saw 5.3% growth in the first quarter, well over analysts' expectations, but data on…

11 hours ago