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Japan, U.S. to deepen cooperation in cutting-edge chips

TOKYO — Japan and the U.S. will deepen cooperation in building supply chains for cutting-edge semiconductor devices, amid growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing.


The two governments are close to agreeing on cooperation in producing chips more advanced than 2 nanometers, Nikkei has learned. They are also working on a framework to prevent technology leaks, with China in mind.


Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda will visit the U.S. from Monday to meet Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. They are expected to announce the chip cooperation during the visit.

Both countries are worried about their dependence on Taiwanese and other suppliers and seek to diversify sources.


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is the leading development of the 2-nanometer technology, while IBM also completed a prototype in 2021.


The Japanese government has invited TSMC to build a plant on the southwestern island of Kyushu to increase domestic chip production. This plant, however, will only produce less-advanced 10- to 20-nanometer chips. The new Japan-U.S. cooperation, which focuses on cutting-edge developments, is positioned as the next step after the invitation to TSMC.


In Japan, chipmaking equipment suppliers such as Tokyo Electron and Canon are developing manufacturing technologies for advanced lines at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, in which IBM is also a participant. Japan and the U.S. hope to catch up with Taiwanese and South Korean companies in the production of 2-nanometer chips and eventually leading the industry in even more advanced semiconductors.


Intel is lagging behind TSMC and others in miniaturizing circuit line width, which determines the performance of semiconductors. Japan has fewer chipmakers but is strong in semiconductor production equipment and materials used in chip production.


In addition to the 2-nanometer technology, “chiplets” — made by connecting semiconductor chips on a single substrate — could also be an area of cooperation, particularly as Intel has the production method.


Japan’s move to strengthen chip cooperation with the U.S. is driven by concerns about waning domestic development and production in the industry.


Japan had about 50% of the global semiconductor market of about 5 trillion yen ($38 billion at current rates) in 1990. But that market share has shrunk to about 10%, although the industry size has ballooned to about 50 trillion yen.

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