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US 'chip request' arrives ahead of the summit

Posted April. 25, 2023 07:59,   

Updated April. 25, 2023 07:59


In the lead-up to the South Korea-U.S. summit on Wednesday, the U.S. has requested that Korea urge its major chipmakers, such as Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, to refrain from filling any market voids in China in the event that Beijing bars Idaho-based Micron from selling chips. This move is part of the Biden administration's efforts to rally its allies in the chip war against China, which involves limiting the sales of Chinese products. With the U.S. realigning the global supply chain to prioritize its national interest, including through initiatives such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the success of the upcoming summit will hinge on the extent to which the Korean government can allay concerns and minimize the impact on Korean companies.

According to the Financial Times, on Sunday it was reported that the U.S. made the request as President Yoon Suk Yeol prepared to travel to Washington for a state visit, based on accounts from four people familiar with the talks between the White House and the presidential office in Seoul. This move is seen as a countermeasure against China's recent launch of a national security review into Micron.

According to reports, an official from the presidential office did not deny the U.S. request, stating that they will make their utmost effort to minimize possible damage to Korean companies during bilateral discussions. In response to an inquiry from The Dong-A Ilbo, the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council stated that “the Biden and Yoon administrations had made historic progress deepening co-operation on national and economic security issues, including efforts to protect leading-edge technologies.” He added, “This includes efforts to co-ordinate investments in the semiconductor sector, secure critical technologies, and address economic coercion. We expect the upcoming state visit to even further strengthen co-operation on all these fronts.” These comments suggest that cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. on semiconductor regulation and countering China's retaliatory measures will be high on the agenda at the summit.

During the upcoming summit, President Yoon and President Biden are expected to dramatically strengthen cooperation in cutting-edge technology areas, including quantum, AI, bio, and, space. In particular, the joint statement of the summit is expected to include plans to elevate the ROK-U.S. alliance to a "high-tech alliance." Relevant companies from both countries are also pushing to sign several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) during the state visit, aimed at further strengthening cooperation in high-tech fields such as semiconductors, batteries, electric vehicles, and bio.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com