Japan yesterday said that it does not plan to retract or renegotiate its stricter controls on high-tech exports to South Korea, a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged that the issue be resolved through diplomacy.
Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for Japanese shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korean companies.
Such materials can only be exported to trustworthy trading partners, Japanese officials have said, hinting at security risks without citing specific cases.
They have rejected suggestions that the move was driven by worsening ties between the two nations related to historical issues.
“The measure is not a subject for consultation and we have no intention of withdrawing it either,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
He was responding to Moon’s appeal for a diplomatic solution thorough “sincere” bilateral discussions, urging Tokyo to withdraw what he described as a politically motivated measure.
Moon on Monday said that Seoul would be forced to take countermeasures if the restrictions on materials used mainly in semiconductors and displays cause damage to South Korean companies, as the curbs have raised concern over possible disruptions for South Korean manufacturers and global supply chains.
The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said that Seoul plans to file a complaint with the WTO.
Japan’s trade measures followed South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean plaintiffs for forced World War II labor.
The export restrictions cover fluorinated polyimides, which are used in organic light-emitting diode screens for TVs and smartphones, as well as photoresist and hydrogen fluoride, used for making semiconductors.
Japanese officials have said that those chemicals are sensitive materials that could be used in fighter jets, radars and chemical weapons, and the decision to tighten controls was based on a lack of trust that posed a risk to national security.
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.
South Korea has summoned a Japanese embassy official to protest Abe’s suggestion that it could not be trusted to faithfully implement sanctions against the North, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kim In-chul said.
South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo said that an “emergency inspection” found no sign of illegal transactions.
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