Japan slaps export controls on|
Special to CNET News.com
April 16, 2000, 1:30 p.m. PT
Japan has slapped export controls on Sony?s new PlayStation 2 video game console
because the machine is so sophisticated it could be used for military purposes.
The popular gaming machine, which includes a digital video disc (DVD) player and will
eventually offer Internet access, is Sony's most profitable product. The company said it had
shipped 1.4 million in the month after the game's March 4 launch in Japan.
The console and its memory card have been designated as
``general-purpose products related to conventional weapons'
because they contain components that could be used for military
devices such as missile guidance systems, the Kyodo news
agency quoted industry sources as saying.
PlayStation 2 is the first game console to face export controls
under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law,
according to the Kyodo report.
The law requires the trade ministry's approval for the export of
restricted products worth more than $472. Thus, the export of more
than two consoles would be controlled because each is priced at
``We have mixed feelings because our efforts to produce a game
console of the highest quality have resulted in legal restrictions,' the Asahi Shimbun
newspaper quoted an official of Sony Computer Entertainment as saying.
``We could not compromise because of the fierce competition in the industry,' he said.
Officials of the trade ministry and Sony could not be reached for further comment.
With U.S. software giant Microsoft due to enter the lucrative video game market later next year
with its own high-performance console, tentatively called the X-Box, export controls could
hinder Sony's ability to compete, Kyodo quoted industry sources as saying.
The first version of the PlayStation generated approximately 40 percent of Sony's group-based
Sony Computer Entertainment, a Sony subsidiary, has said it aims to ship four million
PlayStation 2 consoles in Japan and three million each in Europe and the United States
through next year. Overseas shipments are due to start later this year.
``These days there are so many items that have technology for civilians that can also be used
for military purposes, and of course, PlayStation 2 is among these goods,' the Asahi Shimbun
newspaper quoted military commentator Kensuke Ebata as saying.
Military analysts cited the example of a Tomahawk missile that needs to ``see' where it is
going until it strikes its target and must process graphic material at high speed to keep to its
target. PlayStation 2's graphic processing capability is fast enough to enable it to be used in a
Japan's government has become increasingly wary of the possibility that products meant for
civilian use could be diverted for weapons use.
Japanese radar and communications devices for civilian use were discovered in a North Korean
submarine sunk by the South Korean military in December 1998, and two Japanese men were
arrested in January on suspicion of illegally shipping parts for anti-tank rocket launchers to Iran.
The export restrictions are just the latest in a string of problems that have plagued Sony's most
Sony Computer Entertainment said this month that users could illegally manipulate the
machine to copy DVD movies to videotape. Last month it said it had found the game player
could be used to watch digital video disk software sold overseas in breach of a worldwide
agreement among DVD player makers.
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