Microsoft is asking about 700 to 800 people in its China-based cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence operations to consider transferring outside the country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The employees, mostly engineers with Chinese nationality, were earlier in the week offered an option to transfer to countries including the U.S., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The move comes amid spiralling US-China relations as the Biden administration cracks down on various sectors of Chinese imports, including electric vehicle (EV) batteries, computer chips and medical products.

A Microsoft spokesperson told the Journal that providing internal opportunities is part of its global business and confirmed the company had shared an optional internal transfer opportunity with a subset of employees.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the U.S. Commerce Department is considering a new regulatory push to restrict the export of proprietary or closed source AI models, whose software and the data it is trained on are kept under wraps.

The spokesperson, however, told the newspaper that the company remains committed to the region and will continue to operate in China.

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee)