The United States pressured its European allies to stop supporting technology for China.
The Netherlands intended to sell chip-making technology to China, but it met with US efforts to block it.
|ASML employees are assembling the final stage of a semiconductor lithography tool at a factory in the Netherlands. Photo: ASML|
Sources familiar with the matter said that the administration of US President Donald Trump has carried out a major campaign in the past two years to prevent ASML semiconductor chip manufacturing technology efforts from a Chinese company.
Specifically, ASML has been given permission by the Dutch Government to sell an important chip manufacturing process called lithography, which grants its license to sell its most advanced printing equipment to a Chinese customer.
In early 2018, the United States began an unprecedented high-level intervention “campaign” to prevent the deal.
In the months that followed, US officials checked whether they could stop the sale altogether and held at least four rounds of negotiations with Dutch officials.
The effort culminated on July 18, 2018 when Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman raised the issue with Dutch officials during Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s visit to the White House. Mr. Charles Kupperman reported intelligence on the potential consequences of China’s acquisition of ASML technology.
The pressure finally worked, right after his visit to the United States, Mark Rutte’s government decided not to renew ASML’s export license and the $ 150 million machine was not shipped.
ASML’s shipment of equipment to China on 6 November 2019 has been delayed but details of the previous US pressure campaign have not been disclosed.
ASML has never publicly identified Chinese customers, but Nikkei and others have reported that it is the International Semiconductor Chip Manufacturing Company (SMIC), China’s largest chip maker. If the company holds the world’s fastest chip-making technology from the Netherlands, China probably has a trump card ready to deal with any ban on cooperation with US chip firms such as Intel.
Currently only a few companies, including Intel Corp. of the US, Samsung Electronics of Korea and TSMC of Taiwan are capable of producing the most sophisticated chips. But China has caught up with the chip companies. This is considered an important area, which is prioritized by this country and is invested tens of billions of dollars.
It was China’s especially important investment in chip manufacturing that the United States was forced to take a deterrent move. The warning to the Netherlands is still the old words, preventing the “sensitive technological flow” to China from affecting national security.
Reuters quoted the source as saying, there has never been an effort to prevent a foreign company’s purchase of such a high-level involvement at the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Dutch Prime Minister to stop ASML from selling chip manufacturing equipment to China.
Even Pentagon officials have repeatedly met with Dutch partners to discuss security risks from the deal with China. The meetings take place at the Dutch Embassy in Washington in late 2018 and January 2019.
With a market value of over 110 billion euros, ASML has grown to dominate the lithography market over the past two decades and is the pride of the Dutch industry. ASML lithography equipment intended to be sold to China is part of the Wassenaar Agreement, which coordinates the export restrictions of so-called “dual use” technologies that have applications both commercial and military.
In public statements, ASML only said. “An export license is required to transport ultraviolet engraving printers (EUV) [sang Trung Quốc]. We have applied for a license and are waiting, “an ASML spokesman said.