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U.S. pushing Korea to intensify chip sanctions on China

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hold a virtual meeting with business leaders and state governors to discuss supply chain problems, particularly addressing semiconductor chips, on the White House campus in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2022. [REUTERS}
U.S. President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hold a virtual meeting with business leaders and state governors to discuss supply chain problems, particularly addressing semiconductor chips, on the White House campus in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2022. [REUTERS]

Korea faces pressure to join a U.S-lead group in imposing chip export sanctions on China, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The U.S. government has been pressuring its allies, including the Netherlands, Germany, Korea and Japan to intensify their sanctions against the country in order to prevent it from accessing advanced chip manufacturing technology, per the report.

The United States reportedly launched a “structured dialogue” with Korea in February, aiming to persuade the nation — an industry leader in both chip manufacturing and chip equipment components — to join its sanction pact.

An official on the trade security team at the Korean Industry Ministry refused to confirm whether the talk took place, citing “national security” issues.

The United States continues to pressure the Netherlands to prevent Dutch semiconductor supplier ASML from servicing chipmaking equipment purchased by Chinese clients, Bloomberg said, citing anonymous sources. The company has already stopped selling its EUV lithography tool — which enables the production of advanced chips, such as those that power the iPhone — to China, as well as its older DUV machines.

The country also reportedly seeks to cooperate with Japan by limiting exports of critical chemicals used in chipmaking from companies including JSR Corp. and Shin-Etsu Chemical.

The two countries have yet to acquiesce to those requests and will decide after assessing the impact of their current curbs, per the report.

Germany is a key supplier of components for advanced chip manufacturing equipment as well, and the United States has made efforts to curb its shipments to China.

The latest talks are a continuation of the Biden administration’s hard push to prevent China from gaining technology supremacy in chips that has spanned the past two years. Despite those efforts, China has managed to advance forward with its chip technology. Huawei’s reveal of domestically produced 7-nanometer chips, which China wasn’t known to have the ability to manufacture, took the U.S. government by surprise, leading its Department of Commerce to pledge that it would take the “strongest action possible.”

The Semiconductor Industry Association, an American industry group, called on the U.S. government in January to lure more players into the trade sanction pact, citing unfairness and efficacy.

“SIA maintains that multilateral controls are more effective than unilateral controls and that they ensure that U.S. companies are not placed at a disadvantage in the global marketplace,” it said in a written letter sent to the Bureau of Industry and Security under the U.S. Commerce Department.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi condemned the United States’ latest moves to curb trade.

“The U.S. has been devising various tactics to suppress China and keeps lengthening its unilateral sanction list, reaching bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity,” the minister was quoted as saying on Thursday in Beijing.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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