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US lawmakers seek limits on sales to Chinese firms of software used to design weapons

Washington: US lawmakers want tighter restrictions on sales to Chinese companies of design software used to create computer chips for military hardware such as hypersonic weapons, a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Thursday.

“We write to urge you to designate electronic design automation (EDA) tools as a foundational technology and require a license for all end-users under the ownership, influence, or control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” the letter from House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican Michael McCaul and Senator Tom Cotton said.

The letter said the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), a hypersonic weapons research unit run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), purchased EDA software sold by Phytium Technology.
Phytium claims to be a civilian company. However the letter noted that China’s Military-Civil Fusion policy seeks to eliminate the distinction between the nation’s civilian and defense sectors.

Phytum was among seven Chinese entities sanctioned by Commerce last week for engaging in military modernization efforts following a Washington Post article detailing Phytum’s sales of EDA software to CARDC.
“We find it deeply troubling that the Department of Commerce allowed such a critical U.S. technology to be harnessed to design weapons targeting American servicemembers operating in the Indo-Pacific,” the lawmakers wrote.

Department of Commerce should immediately designate EDA software as a “Foundational Technology,” which would require all US EDA companies to get an export license before exporting any product to China, the letter said.

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