Seoul urges United Nations probe as feud with Japan deepens

Lester Mason
July 13, 2019

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 last October ordering Japan's Nippon Steel Corp 5401.T to compensate former forced labourers.

The North's Foreign Ministry says it has "no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea".

On Friday, a South Korean security, industry and trade representative arrived in Tokyo for discussions on Japan's move to tighten controls on hi-tech exports.

A foreign ministry official handling Asia-Pacific affairs is visiting Japan as Seoul steps up efforts to reverse Tokyo's recent export control measure through bilateral dialogue and USA mediation.

South Korea's presidential National Security Office (NSO) on Friday proposed to Japan that the two countries jointly ask an global body to probe into the handling of strategic materials by both countries after Japan's indication of South Korea having illegally smuggled the materials to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The two sides met Friday for the first time since Japan imposed the curbs last week.

In the Friday talks, South Korean officials expressed regret over Japan's export restrictions and asked Tokyo to remove them, participant Han Cheol-hee, a trade ministry director, told reporters as he was leaving Japan on Saturday.

He said South Korean officials protested that Japan was providing only "very abstract" reasons for its stricter export controls.

It was seen as more of a continuation of North Korea's sensitivity to the introduction of sophisticated US weapons on the Korean Peninsula, and dissatisfaction with Seoul since the Vietnam summit's breakdown.

The Japanese officials reiterated Tokyo's stance that it won't negotiate over the trade curbs and said, without specifying, that there have been "inappropriate" cases regarding Japanese exports to South Korea.

It plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization and has denied the Japanese allegations that it allowed sensitive materials to reach North Korea.

In September 2014, South Korea announced a deal to procure 40 F-35 fighters in a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal worth about $6.1 billion.

The Japanese ministry official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the export restrictions were "necessary measures related to security".

The Seoul High Court ruled that Nippon Steel Corp. pay 100 million won (86,400 USA dollars) in compensation each to the family members of the seven South Korean victims for their wartime forced labor without pay, according to local media reports.

But the officials said Saturday that they made the comment because both sides agreed not to make the issue public.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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