Abe Flails in Defending Export Curbs to S.Korea

  • By Lee Ha-won, Lee Yong-soo

    July 08, 2019 10:08

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday flailed in defending export restrictions against South Korea by claiming they were motivated by fears that Seoul could violate international sanctions against North Korea.

    Speaking in a political debate hosted by Fuji TV on Sunday, Abe said while South Korea claims to adhere to sanctions against North Korea, "it is clear that [South Korea] does not abide by international promises regarding [forced laborers] so it is only reasonable to think that it will not abide by trade restrictions [against North Korea]."

    Abe was referring to a decision by the Supreme Court here in October last year that South Korean forced labor victims can sue their Japanese employers despite a 1965 treaty that Japan says settles all claims in return for lump sum reparations.

    Last week, the Japanese government defended the fresh export curbs on materials that are vital to South Korean IT giants with its right to "properly manage the exports of technology that can be converted into weapons and other uses."

    The bizarre claim that the materials could end up in North Korea was first made on Friday by Koichi Hagiuda, Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary. Hagiuda claimed that "there was a situation where it was difficult to know the final destinations of materials" exported to South Korea, and added, "It is legitimate to put the export curbs out of security concerns."

    It was duly parroted by a senior official in his Liberal Democratic Party, who said, "At one time, a large-scale order for etching gas was made [by a South Korean company], but it is unclear whether it really went to South Korea. Since etching gas is used to produce poison gas or chemical weapons, it may have gone to North Korea."

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) waves at supporters on the campaign trail in Osaka on Saturday. /Kyodo-Yonhap

    Japan announced last week it is striking Korea off a whitelist for exports of three core materials used to produce microchips, smartphones and televisions on which Japan has a virtual monopoly.

    A Foreign Ministry official here said South Korea is "adhering to sanctions against North Korea" and added, "I have no idea what basis such claims are based on."

    The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy here said, "There has been no instance of the chemicals being exported to North Korea through [South] Korea."

    The fresh Japanese claims suggest that Tokyo is uncomfortable about international attention being paid to the export curbs, which take the dubious route of economic retaliation in a purely diplomatic spat.

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