The United States and Japan have agreed to expand their cooperation on critical emerging technologies beyond semiconductors to include areas such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, Japanese industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Thursday after meeting with his U.S. counterpart.
On semiconductors, Rapidus Corp., a new Japanese government-backed company, and U.S. tech giant IBM Corp., which have partnered in developing next-generation semiconductors, also plan to work together on marketing and promoting human resources development, according to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The moves represent the latest efforts by the close allies to address potential economic vulnerabilities amid intensifying competition between the United States and China over technology and other issues.
During talks with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington, the two countries agreed to seek to realize the development of next-generation semiconductors "at an early date" and expand cooperation on key emerging technologies "across the board," including quantum computing, Nishimura said.
"There was a time when Japan and the United States were locked in fierce trade disputes including over semiconductors...but that is a thing of the past. Japan and the United States are now partners cooperating on economic security," the economy, trade and industry minister added.
The world's semiconductor manufacturing capacity is concentrated in East Asia, with Taiwan accounting for 20 percent of the global total in 2019, followed by South Korea, Japan, China and the United States, according to a June 2021 report by the White House.
Japanese chip manufacturers were once dominant players, holding half the global share in the late 1980s. But they came under pressure when frictions over trade with the United States led to export restrictions that allowed South Korean and Taiwanese chipmakers to make deeper inroads.
Rapidus, created by Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Group Corp. and six other major Japanese companies, is part of Japan's efforts to reboot the country's semiconductor industry.
Rapidus aims to produce 2-nanometer chips at home starting in 2027 in cooperation with IBM, which unveiled its breakthrough 2-nanometer technology in 2021. Such advanced chips can be used for 5G communications, quantum computing, data centers, self-driving vehicles and digital smart cities.
According to the Japanese industry ministry, the two companies also agreed on "collaborative efforts" to create a new market for the next-generation semiconductors to be manufactured by Rapidus.
To support human resources development, Rapidus scientists and engineers will work together with IBM researchers at the Albany Nanotech Complex in New York, known as one of the world's most advanced semiconductor research facilities.
Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura (3rd from front, R row) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (2nd from front, L row) meet in Washington on Jan. 5, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)(Kyodo)
With Japan and the United States seeking to build resilient supply chains for semiconductors and other key supplies, Nishimura acknowledged during a speech at a think tank that such efforts would "take time to realize" and said attempts by some countries to use their economic leverage to secure concessions must be countered.
Citing China's ban on imports of Taiwanese pineapples, apparently imposed to pressure the self-ruled democratic island, Nishimura said economic coercion is "a clear and present danger."
"We might need to make preparations to identify the choke points of countries wanting to engage in coercion and then take countermeasures if necessary," he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
With Japan holding the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven industrialized nations this year, Nishimura added that "effective responses" to economic coercion will be a "major agenda item" at the summit scheduled in May in the western city of Hiroshima.
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