August 02, 2019 10:11
The Japanese government in a Cabinet meeting on Friday morning removed Korea from a "whitelist" of preferential trade partners.
Once the decision takes effect around Aug. 23, Korean firms must apply for individual permission every time they want to import one of about 1,100 high-tech materials and products.
Last month, Japan already restricted exports to Korea of three key materials used to manufacture computer chips and smartphones. But now the export curbs are spreading to all sectors.
Korea tried until the last minute to dissuade Japan. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono for around an hour on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok on Thursday, but the two merely reiterated their positions and failed to narrow their differences in an escalating spat over compensating Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
Kono seems to have shown up at the meeting to avoid accusations of intransigence but was unwilling to make any concession.
Japanese media reported that Kono "firmly rejected" Kang's request to keep Korea on the whitelist. Vice Foreign Minister Cho Se-young here said Japan is "not about to yield despite U.S. intervention."
Shortly after her meeting with Kono, Kang said, "We will have no choice but to consider necessary responses if Japan pushes its stance."
"Japan claims the export restrictions are being taken due to security concerns, so we will also have no choice but to consider the matter within the security framework of the two countries," she added. It was a thinly veiled warning to scrap a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact.
The U.S. urged Korea and Japan to consider signing a "standstill agreement" to buy time to negotiate, but Japan refused.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of the U.S. and Japan will meet at the ARF on Friday, and later the three foreign ministers sit down together. "The focus of talks will be on containing the fallout of the exclusion from the whitelist," one diplomatic source said.
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