Japan Applying Loose Hand to PlayStation 2 Exports

TOKYO (03/09/2000) - The Japanese government, while classifiying the new PlayStation 2 computer game console as a restricted item for export because of the technology it contains, is applying a loose regulatory hand to individuals wishing to take it out of the country.

"The Japanese Government controls this item based on the Wassenaar Arrangement," said Yoichi Iida, deputy director of the security export control division at Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). "The objective (of the arrangement) is to prevent regional conflict by stopping the inflow into the area of conventional arms or civil-use items which could be used as conventional arms," he added.

The Wassenaar Arrangement was signed in March 1994 in the Dutch city from which it gets its name and is the predecessor to an agreement that dates back to the Cold War. One of the goals of the arrangement is to prevent civilian items containing sophisticated technology from being exploited for use in weapons.

The list of controlled goods ranges from propulsion systems and electronics to advanced materials and telecommunications systems.

"We were told by Sony there are two reasons why the PlayStation 2 falls under the Arrangement," said Iida. "One is that the PlayStation 2 has encryption performance which is beyond the threshold of the regulations of Japan's export and trade laws. The other reason is the PlayStation 2 has special ability regarding the graphics accelerator and graphics core processor."

But those wishing to export a single console out of Japan, whether by mail or personally, need not worry. A threshold limit of 50,000 yen (US$470) has been set above which an export license is needed. At 39,800 yen, the PlayStation 2 falls under the limit and can be taken out of the country in single quantities with no problems. For those wishing to export more, Iida says a license is required and is likely to be granted quickly if the product is being shipped to nations such as the U.S. or those in Europe.

In line with many countries, Japan bans exports of such products to only four nations: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya.

Nevertheless, media reports of a ban on exports has resulted in some confusion, he said. "A lot of people are calling our local offices asking whether they should apply for a license."

Major courier companies Federal Express Corp. and UPS Yamato Co. Ltd., the local affiliate of United Parcel Service of America Inc., are giving callers similar advice -- as long as single systems are being exported, it's no problem.

But consoles are not leaving the country en masse, at least not via UPS. "Today we picked up our first PlayStation 2," said Hiroko Udagawa, assistant manager of UPS Yamato. "It is destined for Hong Kong," she said.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry is online at http://www.miti.go.jp/. More information on the Wassenaar Arrangement can be found online at http://www.wassenaar.org/.

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