In early October, the U.S. issued a new series of export restrictions targeting China's ability to manufacture advanced semiconductors and supercomputers — with the claim that China used these for weapon development and surveillance. Part of the rules prevented U.S.-based companies from shipping certain manufacturing equipment to produce advanced semiconductors to China.
It once again brought ASML — and some Japanese competitors — into the spotlight, and U.S. government officials to the table with Dutch and Japanese counterparts. Some 90 percent of the global supply of semiconductor manufacturing equipment is from companies based in the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands and any export bans from them would thwart China's attempts to secure advanced semiconductors.
"Right now, ASML's equipment could be used to, at least for China, to be able to boost its indigenous capabilities to produce semiconductors with pretty advanced capabilities that then feed into weapon development programs and surveillance capabilities," Martijn Rasser, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Center for New American Security, said. Rasser has called for the Dutch to match strict U.S. controls. He believes that a U.S.-Dutch deal is imminent, either in the next two weeks or at least this month.
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