As more companies scramble to comply with the White House executive order prohibiting telecommunications equipment deemed a national security risk - even as the administration extended Huawei a 90-day reprieve - Japan's Toshiba said Thursday that it had suspended shipments of electronics to Huawei, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
The suspension will allow Toshiba time to figure out whether any US-originated parts or technologies are being packaged into Toshiba products sold to Huawei. If it were to ship US-made components to Huawei in violation of the ban, Toshiba would risk drawing the ire of the White House.
Toshiba is at least the second major Japanese supplier to cut ties with Huawei, the other being Panasonic, which also supplies parts for Huawei phones. Japan's enthusiastic support of the White House's crackdown on Huawei shows that the world's third-largest economy has picked a side in the battle between China and the US, potentially risking the trade war (and possibly even a hot war) across the East China Sea (and perhaps more riots).
Toshiba didn't say which products would be pulled, but it's understood that Toshiba has been a supplier of hard-disk drives, discrete semiconductors and high-speed data processing system LSI to Huawei. Toshiba said it did not expect a big impact on its earnings, and that it would resume shipping products that are found not to include US-made components. But given the interlocking nature of supply chains in the global economy, it's extremely likely that at least some of the components in all of its hard drives were manufactured in the US, and thus would be subject to the ban. Until March of this year, Toshiba and Huawei had been working on an Internet-of-things project, but it has since been abandoned. Google was the first major tech company to turn on Huawei by announcing that it would cut Huawei phones off from access to most of its Android operating system-related services, though that decision has been suspended for 90 days thanks to Washington's decision to delay the order.
As more companies turn on Huawei, shifting the gravity of the trade dispute to finally focus squarely on Washington's campaign against the global leader in 5G technology, Chinese media and its critical rhetoric have grown more strident. As the Guardian pointed out, a CCTV bulletin accused Washington of being "delusional" for thinking that "technological bullying" could hurt China. "This shows some American politicians are extremely narrow-minded and cannot tolerate the normal pursuit of development and progress of other countries."
As for the timing for the next round of talks, neither side is showing much willingness to restart negotiations.
China's Ministry of Commerce said Thursday via its spokesman Gao Feng that the US would need to "show sincerity" - that is, stop its escalation - if it wants talks to resume, adding that China won't make concessions on key issues.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during his regular news briefing in Beijing that the Chinese government would continue to support Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, and accused the US government of using "ntaional power to oppress other countries' companies and disturb market functions." Responding to legislation proposed in the US that would sanction companies involved in China's construction in the South China Sea, Kang warned Washington not to advance the bill, or face more of a backlash.
Japan and the UK have joined the blockade of Huawei, and South Korean media report that Washington has stepped up its lobbying of the Blue House to ban the use of Huawei telecoms equipment, warning about the potential for espionage. That's an extension of a strategy Washington has used with other allies to mixed success.