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Japan to pursue SKorea trade curbs, citing lax trade control

July 24, 2019

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s trade minister said Wednesday he will go ahead with a plan to strip South Korea of its preferred status in export licensing, saying Seoul has failed to provide a convincing explanation to address Japan’s doubts that South Korean export control is strict enough to catch sensitive materials potentially converted to weapons.

Japan on July 4 began requiring Japanese companies to require case-by-case export approvals for South Korea on three materials to make semiconductors and displays used in smartphones and other high-tech devices. Similar procedures may apply to other products when South Korea loses its “white” nation status.

Senior lawmakers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party have suggested that some South Korean shipment may be reaching the North.

Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said Wednesday he will steadily pursue removal of South Korea’s preferred status as planned.

A “public comment” period on the decision ends Wednesday, and the change is expected to take effect within weeks.

Earlier Wednesday, South Korea’s trade minister, Sung Yun-mo, demanded that Japan drop the plan, calling it baseless and one-sided.

Sung raised concerns that Japan’s measure not only damages the countries’ relations but also harms the global value chain and free trade.

Seko said Seoul has kept postponing Tokyo’s requests for a meeting and never provided an explanation to address concerns about South Korea’s case-by-case licensing requirement that only covers items potentially converted to weapons of mass destruction and missiles, not conventional weapons.

Without a dialogue to mitigate the doubts, Japan could no longer allow South Korea preferred status, Seko said. Amid a hiatus of export control authorities’ policy meetings since 2016, Seoul in December asked for a postponement until after March, and has never tried to reschedule the meetings while ignoring Tokyo’s repeated requests to do so, Seko said.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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