South Korea has denounced Japan's recent export control measure as politically driven economic retaliation against it at a key World Trade Organization (WTO) session, as it strives to drum up international support to reverse the move.
During a meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods in Geneva on Tuesday, Ambassador Paik Ji-ah, Seoul's top envoy at its permanent mission in Geneva, expressed regrets over Japan's curbs on exports of key materials used in semiconductors and displays, the foreign ministry here said.
Last Thursday, Tokyo enforced toughened restrictions on the exports to South Korea in an apparent retaliatory move against last year's Supreme Court rulings here that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
"(Paik) said that Japan's export restriction measure is against only one single country, and mentioned that it is inappropriate to take a retaliatory economic measure for political purposes," the ministry said in a statement.
"She also expressed regrets that the measure was announced shortly after Japan, the host of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, stressed free, fair trade," it added.
The ambassador also called for Japan to clearly explain the rationale behind its export curbs and promptly retract the measure, contending that its claim about an erosion of trust between the two countries can't be a justification under WTO rules.
While denying that the trade control measure is linked to the forced labor issue, Tokyo officials hinted that weakened bilateral trust, coupled with potential security risks associated with chemical exports, was a reason for such action.
Tokyo has pressured Seoul to step in to address renewed tensions from court rulings over forced labor, as it argues that all reparation issues stemming from its 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula were settled under a 1965 state-to-state accord aimed at normalizing bilateral ties.
But Seoul has refused to intervene in civil litigation, saying it honors court decisions under a democratic constitutional principle that guarantees the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers.
Seoul also plans to highlight what it calls the unreasonable nature of Tokyo's export restrictions during a meeting of the WTO General Council slated for July 23-24.
South Korea appears to be striving to secure backing from the international community, including the United States, to roll back Japan's trade measure, as its efforts to settle the diplomatic tussle bilaterally have made no headway.
On Thursday (Washington time), Kim Hee-sang, director-general for bilateral economic affairs, plans to meet Roland de Marcellus, acting deputy assistant secretary for international finance and development at the State Department.
The planned meeting was initially designed to prepare for high-level economic consultations between Seoul and Washington slated for late this year. But Kim is expected to touch on Japan's export control measure.
Kim is also expected to meet the deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan at the State Department's bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for talks possibly on Tokyo's retaliatory move.
The U.S. has long been promoting trilateral cooperation with its two core Asian allies to jointly handle a range of regional security challenges, including the North's nuclear and missile threats and any move to undermine freedom of maritime navigation.
Source: Yonhap News