October 27, 2020 11:54
The Japanese government has launched a campaign against Yoo Myung-hee, Korea's candidate for the top job at the World Trade Organization.
The government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga believes that Yoo's election as director-general of the WTO would be detrimental to Japan's national interests.
The fears are not unfounded. Yoo was in charge of Seoul's complaint to the WTO last year after Tokyo restricted exports of high-tech materials to Korea in retaliation against a Supreme Court ruling ordering Japanese businesses to compensate forced wartime laborers.
Japan believes this would present a conflict of interests if Yoo were to head the body and skew it against Japan in future trade disputes.
Sources say that Japan's Foreign Ministry has been lobbying Asian, European and Latin American countries not to back the Korean candidate.
It is apparently dangling economic support in front of some developing countries if they side with Yoo's rival, Nigerian candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Kyodo News reported Sunday that the Japanese government has decided to back the Nigerian candidate. When asked if the Japanese government supports Okonjo-Iweala, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on Monday did not deny the prospect and said, "Each country is choosing not to comment on the vote due to diplomatic protocol."
The WTO director-general is chosen by consensus rather than majority vote, so Yoo does not stand a chance against concerted Japan-led opposition.
Voting for the top WTO post starts on Tuesday and results are expected next week.
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