Spotlight: Japan dismisses South Korea's remarks on export curbs, Seoul denies violating int'l law in wartime forced labor ruling

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-19 21:51:18|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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TOKYO/SEOUL, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan on Friday refuted South Korea's claims on export curbs of hi-tech materials, with an official of the ministry saying that it is difficult to see how the countries can hold talks on the issue given the current state of bilateral relations.

Japanese Trade Ministry official Jun Iwamatsu during a press conference rejected South Korea's call for bureau chief-level talks, saying Japan's trade control system is a domestic matter and not up for discussion with other countries.

"Discussions between two countries should never be revealed without prior agreement," Iwamatsu said.

"Therefore, we're shocked to learn that South Korea has divulged the nature of our talks last week and the content of emails we exchanged. Some of the information they released is false," he added.

According to the official, South Korea had agreed to engage in a dialogue but suddenly cancelled. He said the two sides need to build trust before they can move forward.

Earlier this month, Japan tightened restrictions on exports of high-tech materials to South Korea, citing "significant damage to the relationship of mutual trust."

Under the new restrictions, individual applications will be necessary for exports to South Korea of three materials used in high-tech products, a process that can take around 90 days.

The materials include fluorinated polyimide, hydrogen fluoride and resist, which are used in the manufacturing process of semiconductors and screens for smartphones and TVs.

Bilateral tensions have become strained between both sides, most recently over a wartime labor dispute.

Tokyo believes Seoul has not cooperated in trying to resolve this bilaterally, or by way of the establishment of an arbitration panel involving a third party.

Japan has tried to maintain that the tighter export controls were not a retaliatory measure against South Korea, but has said that Seoul had failed to show a satisfactory solution to the ongoing wartime labor dispute between both parties.

South Korea's top court ordered some major Japanese firms to compensate South Korean plaintiffs over forced wartime labor during Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, with lawyers being allowed to seize the assets of some Japanese firms, initially raising the ire of the Japanese side.

Japan, for its part, has claimed the rulings are not in line with international law and run contrary to the foundation of friendly and cooperative relations between the two neighbors since the 1965 normalization of diplomatic ties.

South Korea's presidential Blue House said Friday that not South Korea, but Japan violated international law regarding the forced labor of Korean people before and during World War II.

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy director of the National Security Office (NSO) of the Blue House, told a press briefing that it was wrong for Japan to continue asserting the South Korean violation of international law.

He said it was Japan that violated international law with illegal acts against humanity by forcing Korean people into hard labor without pay during the 1910-45 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

The NSO deputy director told reporters that although South Korea sought to resolve the forced labor issue through diplomatic channels with Japan and the dialogue efforts had yet to be concluded, Japan unilaterally slapped export restrictions on South Korea.

Kim said Japan's export curbs were an act damaging the free trade principle and the global value chain.

He stressed that Seoul was open to all constructive proposals as it prioritizes the diplomatic resolution of the forced labor issue, saying the resolution through the arbitration panel can negatively influence the bilateral ties and worsen public hostilities against each other as it takes long and brings a partial victory or loss in many cases.

Kim added that South Korea was ready to consult with Japan on ways to find a middle ground acceptable both to peoples of the two countries and the forced labor victims, urging Tokyo to immediately retract the export restriction.