U.S. Set to Cap Advanced Chips Made by South Korean Companies in China

The United States is expected to set a limit on the level of advanced semiconductors made by South Korean companies in China. In October, the world’s top memory chipmakers South Korea’s Samsung and SK Hynix had received a one year reprieve from U.S. export restrictions aimed at hampering Beijing’s technological and military advances. U.S. Commerce Department’s Undersecretary for industry and security, Estevez said a cap on China production levels for those companies is likely after the waiver ends. Estevez oversees restrictions on tech exports to China.

“If you’re at whatever layer of NAND, we will stop it somewhere in that range,” Estevez said, referring to a flash memory product manufactured by Samsung and SK. He added that the U.S. government was in deep dialogue with the South Korean chipmakers.

“We work with them to ensure that we aren’t going to harm our allies’ companies. At the same time, we’re going to impede the Chinese capability of building capabilities that are going to threaten us collectively,” he said.

South Korea’s industry ministry on Friday said there have been no specific discussions between South Korea and the United States on setting a cap on the technology level.

“Both South Korea and the United States have formed a consensus that current operations and future investment by South Korean chip makers should not be disrupted,” the industry ministry said in a statement, adding that the South Korean government plans to closely discuss the extension of chip-making equipment imports to China.

Both Samsung and SK Hynix, which control around half of the world’s NAND flash memory chip market, invested heavily in China in recent decades. They supply to tech giants including Apple and Amazon.

Japan and the Netherlands have previously joined the United States to impose new restrictions on exports of chipmaking tools to China.

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