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3 Apr, 2023
1 min time to read

Restrictions were not aimed at any specific nation and were intended to help maintain international peace and security, representatives said.

Japan is introducing tighter export controls on 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to limit China's access to advanced chipmaking machinery. Companies such as Nikon and Tokyo Electron will be required to seek approval from Japan's trade ministry if they want to sell their tools in 160 territories worldwide.

The restrictions, which are set to take effect in July, follow similar moves by the US and the Netherlands. The three countries reached an agreement at the beginning of the year to limit China's access to western-made lithography machines, with the Dutch firm ASML being the only company worldwide producing extreme ultraviolet lithography machines chipmakers need to make 5nm and 3nm semiconductors.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said the restrictions were not aimed at any specific nation and were intended to help maintain international peace and security. However, China is among the nations on the restricted list, and the move is part of an ongoing effort to reduce China's access to the latest technology.

Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE) is China's only producer of lithography equipment, but it currently only makes machines capable of printing 90nm node semiconductors. SMIC, China's leading semiconductor manufacturer, began volume production of 14nm chips last summer and started making 7nm chips without access to foreign-made equipment, but it may take some time before Chinese companies match the capacity of their American, Japanese, and European rivals.

The move by Japan is part of a broader effort to limit China's access to technology, as the US and other countries become increasingly concerned about China's rapid technological advancement and its potential military implications. Semiconductor chips are vital components in many industries, including smartphones, computers, and military hardware, and there are fears that China's growing self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing could give it a significant advantage in future conflicts.