SK hynix, Samsung, TSMC granted one-year reprieve from China chip restrictions

Uncle Sam is giving out exemptions like Halloween candy to its allies

South Korean DRAM and flash memory chip maker SK hynix has been granted a one-year exemption from US Department of Commerce restrictions that ban exports of advanced chips and equipment to China.

SK hynix told The Register an official letter from the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) assured the company, its suppliers and business partners it "is still authorized to engage in activities necessary to maintain current production of integrated circuits in China for one year without further licensing requirements."

"Our discussions with the Department of Commerce led to an approval to supply equipment and items needed for development and production of DRAM semiconductors in Chinese facilities without additional licensing requirements," said SK hynix.

The new restrictions, issued October 7, require a license to export to China or transfer domestically within the Middle Kingdom manufacturing equipment and support for DRAM chips below 18nm, NAND chips with more than 128 layers, or logic chips below 14nm.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and Samsung reportedly struck similar deals.

Samsung operates two chipmaking sites in China. For TSMC, it means the company will continue to ship equipment to a Nanjing manufacturing facility where it produces the more mature 22/28nm production nodes.

However, the ban means TSMC will not be able to provide AI processors or advanced graphics to Chinese customers, which remains a very small fragment of TSMC's overall business.

A spokesperson at TSMC, told us: "TSMC has received a one-year authorization for operation of the Company's Nanjing facility, covering both 28nm and 16nm technologies."

Intel said that it received an exemption to continue NAND memory chip operations at its factory in Dalian, China, which it sold to SK hynix.

Intel said last December it planned to continue to manufacture NAND wafers at the Dalian facility until its closure in March 2025.

China has condemned the restrictions. Over the weekend, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the bans "will hinder international sci-tech exchange and trade cooperation and deal a blow to global industrial and supply chains and world economic recovery."

The Register has asked TSMC, Samsung, and Intel to comment. ®

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