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‘Unprecedented emergency’: S. Korean president warns of prolonged export row with Japan

11 July 2019

Last week, Tokyo said it would stop the expedited shipment of compounds used by major firms in the manufacture of microchips and smartphones, increasing long-simmering tensions over the use of forced labor during World War II.

President Moon Jae-in's office at Seoul's Blue House issued a rebuttal on Monday after Abe told Japanese media Tokyo is unleashing trade restrictions against South Korea, and that Seoul could be cheating on North Korea sanctions, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

Meanwhile, Junichi Ihara, Japan's ambassador at the country's permanent mission to global organizations in Geneva, stressed at the meeting that the Japanese measure does not amount to a trade embargo and is fully in accordance with WTO rules, noting that it represents an operational review needed to ensure the appropriate implementation of the country's export regulations, according to informed sources.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his aides have hinted that there might have been illegal transfers of sensitive materials from South Korea to North Korea.

"[Our] government is doing its best to resolve the issue diplomatically".

South Korea previously had preferential treatment from Japan for export of these materials.

South Korean chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. are expected to be impacted by the curbs affecting fluorinated polyimide, resist and hydrogen fluoride.

Still, prospects appear slim for the gap between the two nations to be bridged soon, with a Japanese government source saying the talks would only provide an opportunity to "explain" the details of the export controls at the request of Seoul.

Kang "expressed concern that this is undesirable in terms of friendly relations between South Korea and Japan and trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the USA and Japan", the ministry said.

Japanese officials have rejected any link between the export controls and historical disputes.

South Korea and Japan clashed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this week and Seoul is stepping up diplomatic overtures to their mutual ally, the United States, to step in. They also have continued to add new reasons for the controls, from lack of trust to national security, and most recently South Korea's alleged failure to attend export control talks.

Moon on Wednesday met executives from several companies to discuss the crisis, telling them the decision by Tokyo was meant to damage South Korea's economy, AFP reports.

The move is being seen as a retaliation for the Supreme Court's ruling ordering Japanese firms to compensate Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese companies during Japan's occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century. Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to the report.

‘Unprecedented emergency’: S. Korean president warns of prolonged export row with Japan