TOKYO — Japan does not plan to end its tighter controls on some technology-related material exports to South Korea and confirmed it is not willing to negotiate the matter bilaterally, the top government spokesman said Tuesday.
A day after South Korean President Moon Jae In called for the measure to be withdrawn and for a “sincere discussion,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the step was taken following a domestic review that found export controls should be imposed more effectively.
“The measure is not something that needs to be discussed (with South Korea) and we are not planning to withdraw it,” Suga said at a press conference.
Still, Suga said South Korea’s export control authorities are seeking to “check facts” with the Japanese government and it is prepared to respond to their requests.
Since July 4, manufacturers have been required to file applications before they can export to South Korea three materials needed in the production of semiconductors and displays for smartphones and televisions. Exports to South Korea were once exempt from the procedure.
South Korea has criticized the latest step as going against the spirit of free trade and threatened to take Japan to the World Trade Organization.
Moon hinted at retaliation at a meeting of government officials on Monday, saying that if the Japanese move causes “actual damage” to South Korean companies, Seoul would have no choice but to take necessary action.
South Korean chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. are expected to be impacted by the decision targeting movements of fluorinated polyimide, resist and hydrogen fluoride.
The Japanese government said the bilateral relationship of trust has been “significantly undermined” while rejecting the charge that the measure is retaliation for Seoul’s handling of a months-long dispute over compensation for wartime labor.
According to a diplomatic source, South Korea will likely express its concern at a WTO meeting on goods trade on Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We ended preferential treatment (given to South Korea) and now treat it the same as other countries,” Japan’s trade minister Hiroshige Seko said at a press conference. “Is that a problem from the standpoint of the WTO?”
Tokyo’s relations with Seoul have hit the lowest point in years due to a series of court rulings in South Korea ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean plaintiffs for what they view as their forced labor.
Japan has maintained that a 1965 agreement with South Korea settled the issue of compensation “finally and completely.”
Seoul has ignored Tokyo’s calls to resolve the dispute by holding bilateral consultations or by setting up an arbitration panel that involves a third country based on the accord.