| 15 April 2024, Monday |

China nuclear-weapons lab extensively used US chips for years despite curbs: Report

Ignoring decades-old American export restrictions that were supposed to curb such sales and found a way around them, China’s top nuclear-weapons research institute managed to buy sophisticated US computer chips at least a dozen times in the past two and half years, a Wall Street Journal report stated.
These chips are widely used in data centres and personal computers, and the report suggests that they were acquired from resellers in China.

The publication reviewed the procurement documents and found that the state-run China Academy of Engineering Physics was able to obtain the semiconductors made by companies such as Intel Corp and Nvidia since 2020 despite being put on a US export blacklist in 1997.
Many of them were procured as components for computing systems. The institute’s laboratory that studies computational fluid dynamics, a broad scientific field that includes the modeling of nuclear explosions, acquired most of them.

US has in place restrictions that bar a foreign country from making such purchases that can be used for atomic-weapons research. The CAEP academy was one of the first Chinese institutions to be put on the US blacklist because of its nuclear work. This list is more commonly known as the entity list.

When WSJ reviewed the research papers published by CAEP, it found that at least 34 such papers over the last 10 years carried a reference of American semiconductors being used.

They were used for a whole array of things, such as for analysing data and generating algorithms. Nuclear experts say that in at least seven of them, there were applications that can be used for maintaining nuclear stockpiles.

America has been trying to aggressively counter the use of American technology by China’s military for years now. In October last year, the US told chip designer Nvidia Corp to restrict exports of two computing chips for artificial intelligence work to Beijing.

Following an August announcement from the Commerce Department curbing exports of materials and software used to make next-generation chips, the US notice to chipmakers aimed at crippling Chinese firms’ ability to carry out advanced work like image recognition.

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