South Korea yesterday called for an international investigation of what it said were accusations by Japanese officials that it had passed some high-tech materials imported from Japan on to North Korea in breach of UN sanctions.
The call was the latest twist in a dispute between the US allies that could disrupt supplies of chips and displays from South Korean tech giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which count Apple and other smartphone makers as customers.
Japan last week tightened restrictions on the export of three materials used in smartphone displays and chips, following frustration over what it sees as South Korea’s failure to act in response to a ruling by one of its courts in October last year ordering Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp to compensate people forced into labor during World War II.
Photo: AFP / Jiji Press
However, a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official yesterday said that the curbs on exports of the materials were not retaliation in the feud over compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms.
Referring to the export curbs, Japanese officials have cited “inadequate management” of sensitive items exported to South Korea and a lack of consultations to exchange information on export controls.
Complicating the matter are Japanese media reports that some quantity of one of the materials covered by the export curbs — hydrogen fluoride, which can be used to make chemical weapons — was shipped to North Korea after being exported to the South.
South Korean National Security Office Deputy Director Kim You-geun said that Seoul has fully enforced UN sanctions on North Korea, as well as international export control regimes on sensitive materials and dual-use technology.
“We express deep regret that senior Japanese officials have been recently making irresponsible comments without presenting a clear basis for them, suggesting our government was violating export controls and not enforcing sanctions,” Kim told a media briefing.
“To halt unnecessary disputes and to determine factual basis of the Japanese government’s claims, we suggest a panel of UN Security Council experts or an appropriate international organization to conduct a fair investigation into any cases of four major export control violations by South Korea and Japan,” Kim said.
If a probe found any wrongdoing by Seoul, it would apologize and take corrective measures immediately, he said.
However, if it concluded that South Korea was not at fault, Japan “not only must apologize to our government, but will have to immediately withdraw its retaliatory export restrictions,” he added.
Japanese officials have declined to comment directly on the media reports that South Korea had shipped materials to North Korea.
The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday said that it had found 156 cases of unauthorized exports of strategic goods as of March 2015, but none involved North Korea.
South Korean and Japanese officials were yesterday to meet.
While the Japanese foreign ministry official said the export curbs were not meant as retaliation over the forced labor feud, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko had referred to the dispute when announcing the curbs, saying that South Korea’s lack of sufficient response to resolve it had seriously damaged trust between the two nations.
Japan has also threatened to drop South Korea from a “white list” of countries with minimum trade restrictions.
The Japanese government was not linking the two issues and that, “logically speaking,” the more stringent controls could be removed if South Korea addressed Japan’s concerns about its export control system, the official said.
INCREASED RISK: The Omicron BA.2.75 subvariant has higher immune evasive capacity, but the CECC is more concerned about newer subvariants such as XBB and BQ.1 With the peak season for infectious respiratory diseases coming to an end, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday said that details of the next phase of lifting COVID-19 masking rules — removing the mask requirement in most indoor settings — are to be announced this week. Discussions on lifting other COVID-19 restrictions are also being held, including further easing border control measures, home isolation requirements and revising the definition for reporting cases, while also downgrading COVID-19 to a lower category of notifiable communicable disease, said Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang (王必勝), who heads the CECC. As the daily
GUT FEELING: In the leaked memo, US Air Force General Mike Minihan urged mobile command personnel to go to a firing range, shoot at a target and ‘aim for the head’ A four-star US Air Force general has warned of a conflict with China as early as 2025 — most likely over Taiwan — and urged his commanders to push their units to achieve maximum operational battle readiness this year. In an internal memorandum that first emerged on social media on Friday, and was later confirmed as genuine by the Pentagon, Air Mobility Command Commander General Mike Minihan said that the main goal should be to deter “and, if required, defeat” China. “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan said. Minihan said that Taiwan’s presidential election
PEACE AND STABILITY: The two nations called for the peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues through dialogue without the threat or use of force or coercion The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday thanked France and Australia for voicing their support for Taiwan, saying that peace across the Taiwan Strait is crucial to the stability and prosperity of international society. France and Australia on Monday pledged to deepen ties with Taiwan and reiterated their support for its participation in international organizations at this year’s Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations in Paris. The meeting between French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong (黃英賢) and Australian Minister for Defence Richard Marles was the second
DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM: Czech president-elect Petr Pavel said his nation stands firmly on the side of democracy and would boost cooperation with Taipei in all aspects Czech president-elect Petr Pavel spoke by telephone with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday, a highly unusual move given the lack of formal ties and a diplomatic coup for Taipei. Tsai spoke with Pavel for 15 minutes in a harmonious atmosphere, Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) said, adding that Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) was also present during the conversation. Lin quoted Pavel as telling Tsai that Taiwan is a trustworthy partner, adding that the Czech Republic stands firmly on the side of democracy and supports Taiwan in maintaining a lively democratic system free from authoritarian coercion. The Czech Republic would