China’s top nuclear weapons research institute managed to obtain American-made semiconductors despite export rules banning the transfer of U.S. technology to organizations associated with the Chinese military, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), which developed China’s first hydrogen bomb, has purchased American chips at least 12 times in the past two and a half years, the WSJ reported, citing procurement documents seen by the outlet. Although the U.S. blacklisted the academy in 1997, it has circumvented U.S. sanctions by obtaining the advanced chips from third-party sellers, according to the WSJ.
Companies including Intel and Nvidia manufacture the semiconductors in question, which have broad applications in datacenters and personal computers, according to the WSJ. CAEP acquired the chips through the purchase of computer systems used to study computational fluid dynamics, a field of research that involves modeling nuclear explosions.
The Commerce Department further expanded sanctions on CAEP in 2020, prohibiting the institution from obtaining items produced in the U.S. over concerns of its association with China’s military.