Japan reaffirmed on Friday that it has no intention to lift export curbs against South Korea, indicating that the trade row between the neighbors could last longer than expected, Seoul's trade ministry said.
During a working-level meeting in Tokyo earlier in the day, the Japanese side claimed that the measure is merely part of its own right to control sensitive or banned materials, according to a ministry official here.
Since last Thursday, the Japanese government has applied more complicated procedures for exporting fluorine polyimide, resist and etching gas to South Korea.
The three key materials are used for producing semiconductors, smartphones, and display panels, and South Korea is concerned that the strict export regulations could adversely affect major chipmakers, such as Samsung Electronics Co., whose exports make up a huge chunk of outbound shipments by Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Under the restriction imposed by Japan, it may take up to 90 days for Japanese firms to ship the materials to South Korea.
The meeting, which ran for nearly six hours, was the first time the two sides had met since Japan implemented strict regulations on exports of the materials.
South Korea has been calling on Japan to retract the measure and hold talks to resolve the frictions, but Japan has remained tight-lipped over the request.
Japan's tech curbs also came while South Korea is facing a series of headwinds, such as a trade tussle between the United States and China, the country's top two trading partners, and a decline in prices of chips, its major export item.
Japan said its decision does not necessarily mean that South Korea has transferred the materials to third-party countries, such as North Korea, but there were "inappropriate" issues in terms of exports to Seoul.
The Japanese side also hinted that exports for civilian use can be allowed in the future, although that may take some time, according to the trade ministry official.
Responding to Japan's claims, South Korea expressed deep regret and communicated concerns over potential adverse impacts on the global supply chain, the official said.
South Korean officials also said that it was also regrettable that Tokyo did not provide a full explanation or prior notification before implementing the restriction.
Seoul demanded Japan provide acceptable evidence or grounds for questioning its export control system, the official added.
The trade ministry official said his ministry has proposed another round of talks over the tech trade restrictions before July 24, but the Japanese side did not clearly state whether it would accept the proposal.
South Korea thinks the restriction is politically driven economic retaliation for a South Korean Supreme Court decision that ordered Japanese firms last year to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan has lashed out at the ruling, insisting that all reparation issues stemming from its colonial rule were settled under a 1965 government-to-government accord that normalized bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, South Korea's presidential office earlier in the day suggested a formal probe by a United Nations panel or another international organization into Japan's assertion that Seoul has been negligent in the management of strategic materials.
Cheong Wa Dae claimed if it's proved that South Korea is innocent, Japan will have to offer an apology itself and immediately withdraw the export restrictions. (Yonhap)
Paul Kim email@example.com