Japan is set to tighten its export controls and restrictions on chip technology by requiring semiconductor companies to obtain new licenses for 23 types of production equipment starting in July. This move is part of a deal that Japan made with the United States and the Netherlands in January to deny China access to the most advanced chip technology. The expansion of export controls is aimed at preventing the technology from being exported to certain countries, including China, and is expected to affect companies such as Tokyo Electron, Nikon, and Renesas.

Both Japan and the Netherlands are market leaders in key segments of the chip industry, and the United States is working with them to keep China technologically behind. The US aims to prevent China from developing chips that are essential for artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and military purposes. In January, the Netherlands agreed not to supply China with the newest and second-newest machines for chip production from Dutch company ASML, while the same restrictions apply to the American company Applied Materials.

Last month, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher, visited Japan, where export controls were high on the agenda. However, the Japanese government has not referred to the deal in any way, as it does not want to exacerbate already escalating geopolitical tensions in the region. China is Japan’s largest trading partner, and Japan does not want to face broad economic retaliation.

In a press conference, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura, emphasized that the new export restrictions were not only for China but for all regions. He also stated that they were not taken in consultation with the Americans and should not be seen as a ban. Countries with the status of most-favored trading partners, such as Taiwan and Singapore, can continue to import without a license.

 

The Japanese decision comes a day before the Foreign Minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, visits his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, in Beijing. The relationship between Japan and China has other hot-button issues, such as the arrest of a Japanese employee at a Chinese branch of Astellas Pharma without explanation and the Japanese plan to dump over a million tons of radioactive water into the sea, originating from the 2011 tsunami-affected nuclear power plant.

Hayashi said that during his visit, he would make his positions clear on a range of issues, including the export controls. His visit to Qin follows talks between the two countries in November, during which Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed concern about China’s increasing military presence in East Asian waters. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to reopen diplomatic communication channels, and Japan announced on Friday that a military hotline between Japan and China has been opened.

Meanwhile, Japan has also decided to ban the export of steel, aluminum, and industrial products such as construction machinery, ship engines, airplanes, and drones to Russia. The reason for the sanctions is Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. This move is expected to put pressure on Russia, which relies heavily on Japanese exports, to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

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