South Korea is complaining about the US ban on the sale of computer chips and other products for the 5G network of Huawei, saying it is “unacceptable” and the extraterritorial assertion of control over third-party sales of products made with US equipment is unprecedented, and has no basis in international law.

In an analysis written for Asia Times by David P. Goldman on May 29, 2020, Goldman said Seoul is trying to mediate between Beijing and Washington following the US Commerce Department’s May 18 announcement that sales of computer chips to companies on its “entity list” will require a license if they are produced with US technology, even if they are produced overseas by foreign companies. Only South Korea and Taiwan manufacture the chips that Huawei needs and they all use US technology.  

After the US banned exports of high-end smartphone chips to China’s ZTE Corp in April 2018, Huawei began a crash program to design its own chips. The Commerce Department’s new rules are designed to close what it calls a loophole in US export restrictions, the fabrication of Chinese-designed chips in Taiwan.

China bought almost twice as much from South Korea during the last 12 months as the United States. Sixty percent of all Asian trade stays within Asia, due to tight integration of industrial supply chains. The Korea Times in a May 27 editorial denounced “Washington’s egocentric actions and Beijing bashing,” warning that “a new Cold War and a trade war will deal a severe blow to Korea.”

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