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Dutch leader is visiting Beijing for talks on Ukraine, Gaza and restrictions on high-tech exports

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Beijing, Mar 27 (AP) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is meeting with Chinese leaders Wednesday for talks that are expected to include the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and Dutch restrictions on the export of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China.

The Netherlands imposed export licensing requirements in 2023 on the sale of machinery that can make advanced processor chips. The move came after the United States blocked Chinese access to advanced chips and the equipment to make them, citing security concerns, and urged its allies to follow suit.

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Rutte and Trade Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen were to meet with China’s top leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, a Dutch government release said.

Dutch company ASML is the world’s only producer of machines that use extreme ultraviolet lithography to make advanced semiconductors. In 2023, China became ASML’s second-largest market, accounting for 29 per cent of its revenue as Chinese companies bought up equipment before the licensing requirement took effect.

Beijing has repeatedly accused the US of trying to hold back China’s economic development by restricting access to technology. In response, Xi has launched a campaign to develop home-grown chips and other high-tech products.

“China always opposes the US overstretching the concept of national security and making various excuses to coerce other countries into imposing a technological blockade against China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in January.

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NATO and its growing ties with Asia also may come up at Wednesday’s talks. Rutte is a leading candidate to be the next head of NATO, an organization that China has criticized for provoking regional tensions and making forays into the Asia-Pacific region.

China has also taken a neutral position on the Ukraine war, providing Russia with diplomatic cover and economic support through trade. That stance has angered and frustrated much of Europe, which sees Russia as the aggressor and Ukraine as the victim.

ASML, the Netherlands’ largest company, recently threatened to leave the country over anti-immigration policies that may impact the company’s ability to hire talent, leaving government officials scrambling to ensure that the firm does not leave.

Van Leeuwen said this week in an interview with The FD, a Dutch business newspaper, that protecting the interests of ASML is a top priority but acknowledged that national security comes before economic interests. (AP)

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