ASML Chip Machines In Taiwan Have 'Kill Switch' In Event Of Chinese Invasion

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, May 21, 2024 - 10:55 AM

The US faces one of the worst geopolitical climates since the end of World War II. As the war rages on in Eastern Europe and conflict risks broadening across the Middle East, there are mounting concerns the People's Republic of China could invade Taiwan by the end of the decade. 

If Chicoms invaded Taiwan, it would upend the global microchip supply chain. That's because the tiny island nation off mainland China in East Asia produces more than 90% of the world's most advanced chips. These chips are critical for powering smartphones, electric vehicles, and artificial intelligence applications.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, is responsible for Taiwan's chip dominance. It supplies chips to Apple, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. 

TSMC has factories with ASML Holding NV's extreme ultraviolet machines, known within the industry as EUVs. These machines use high-frequency light waves to print the most advanced chips in the world. 

In the event of a Chinese invasion, several sources told Bloomberg that ASML EUVs in sprawling TSMC factories have remote 'kill switches.' 

They said that with a flip of the switch, the Netherlands-based company could render the machines as large as a city bus and cost $217 million a piece, utterly useless.

Here's more from the report: 

Officials from the US government have privately expressed concerns to both their Dutch and Taiwanese counterparts about what happens if Chinese aggression escalates into an attack on the island responsible for producing the vast majority of the world's advanced semiconductors, two of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

ASML reassured officials about its ability to remotely disable the machines when the Dutch government met with the company on the threat, two others said. The Netherlands has run simulations on a possible invasion in order to better assess the risks, they added.

News of remote kill switches in ASML EUV machines will satisfy political elites in Washington who are waging an aggressive tech war against China's chipmaking industry. The Netherlands has already imposed restrictions on ASML, preventing the sale of EUV machines to China.  

In recent years, US military and intelligence officials have testified publicly about Beijing's plan to invade Taiwan to reunify the island with the mainland.

"All indications point to the PLA meeting President Xi Jinping's directive to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027," Admiral John Aquilino, the leader of the Indo-Pacific Command, told the US House Armed Services Committee in prepared testimony in March, adding, "The PLA's actions indicate their ability to meet Xi's preferred timeline to unify Taiwan with mainland China by force if directed."

The West has to face the harsh reality that the post-1945 order has come to an abrupt end. While the US remains the dominant power, other aggressive nations, such as China and Russia, are competing for a multipolar future. This means a decade or more of uncertainty, conflicts, and chaos.