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Trade war

Japan weighs export controls for cutting-edge tech

Expansion of security-related restrictions would follow US curbs targeting China

Exports of 3D printers can be restricted via the machine tools category, but many other technologies cannot be banned under Japan's current framework.

TOKYO -- Japan is considering restricting exports of advanced technology used in such applications as artificial intelligence and robots, following the lead set by recent American measures aimed at China.

While Japanese law has a framework for keeping sensitive technology out of foreign hands, it focuses mainly on dual-use goods that can be utilized in nuclear weapons, missiles, and chemical and biological weapons, for example. The list of restricted items includes certain machine tools, electronic components and materials.

But there are advanced technologies expected to see broader use that are not covered by these curbs even if they present a security risk. While exports of certain 3D printers can be restricted via the machine tools category, "there are many other technologies that cannot be banned under our current framework," including AI and robotics, a government source said.

The U.S. is employing export controls in its trade war with China, most recently with the addition of Huawei Technologies to a blacklist that essentially bans exports to the telecommunications giant. Washington earlier this year closed a public comment period on planned restrictions that target emerging technologies in 14 categories, including AI, biotechnology, robotics, quantum computing, 3D printing and advanced materials.

Tokyo will refer to this list, among other examples, as it determines what to include in its own controls. It will not explicitly single out China, unlike the U.S., but the new measures will include a framework for handling security problems that may arise. The government aims to amend the relevant cabinet order by 2020.

Tokyo will also consider measures to prevent technologies from leaking out to third parties when Japanese universities conduct joint research with partners in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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