Sun, Mar 17, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chip foundry plans raise security concerns abroad

CROSS-STRAIT INVESTMENTS The US and Japan have voiced their concerns on the possible move by high-tech firms to China, where two lawmakers are said to be investing

By Chou Ching-wen, Ko Shu-ling and Lin Miao-jung  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The dispute over investments in eight-inch wafer foundries in China has raised security concerns in the US and Japan, according to a Liberty Times source.

The source said that leaders of Japan's Semiconductor Industry Association (JSIA) have recently informed Taiwanese authorities that the security alliance between Japan, the US and Taiwan will be harmed unless the nation can efficiently manage the proliferation of wafer technology.

The officials added that Japan could apply the same restrictions on high-tech exports to Taiwan that it does on exports to China if the situation isn't rectified.

The group said that Japan and the US may limit technology exports to Taiwan if the nation fails to ease concerns that it has become a center for exporting advanced technologies to communist states.

Two days ago, Taiwanese officials called a National Science Council (國科會) meeting to discuss the issue. At the meeting, government officials admitted that plans for eight-inch wafer foundry investments in China still pose many problems.

Participants at the meeting said they discussed a report that stated leaders of JSIA have indicated to Taiwan that they have taken notice of the government's plans to allow eight-inch wafer manufacturers to establish foundries in China.

Both Japan and the US have strict rules regulating the export of advanced technologies to communist states and Japan feels that Taiwan's regulations are too lax.

Japan stated its worry that 0.25 micron technology would enter China following the opening of eight-inch wafer fabs, creating a threat to Japanese, American and Taiwanese security.

The report said that once such a situation arises, Japan will apply the same restrictions on technology exports to Taiwan that it does to China.

The science council meeting was also said to have discussed US wafer-export regulations. The US Department of Commerce states that technologies for etching chips finer than 0.5 microns may not be transferred to communist states. There are, however, no restrictions on wafer size.

Technologies of 0.25 microns are more advanced than 0.5 micron technologies.

The department's stringent approval process requires a special application for technologies that may be used both for civilian and military purposes. This includes semiconductors.

Officials at the meeting said that the Japanese warning must be considered by the government when approving cross-strait investment projects, adding that both the US and Japan are friendly democracies from which Taiwan has obtained advanced technologies.

The officials warned that Taiwan would face far-reaching, irreversible effects if restrictions on imports of precision equipment were made.

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said that the Presidential Office fully respects the Executive Yuan's evaluation regarding the issue of eight-inch wafer manufacturers investing in China.

"I believe that the Executive Yuan will consider all the possible implications, including Japan's concern," Huang said.

additional translation by Perry Svensson

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