All national dailies wrote that South Korea made a request at a WTO meeting held in Geneva on Tuesday to discuss Japan’s tighter controls of exports of semiconductor-related materials. The papers speculated that the ROK government will demand the withdrawal of the measure to tighten controls by insisting that it runs counter to the spirit of free trade. The papers also conjectured that Seoul is planning to apply pressure on Tokyo to withdraw the measure by bringing it up at an international forum. Nikkei wrote that although the ROK government is mulling bringing up the issue to a WTO dispute panel, the GOJ plans to maintain its stance of not holding bilateral discussions with Seoul or withdrawing the measure.
NHK reported this morning that at a WTO executive board meeting in Geneva yesterday ROK representative Paik Ji-ah criticized Japan’s tighter controls on semiconductor material exports to the ROK, pointing out that the export curbs apply only to the ROK and violate WTO rules and the principle of free trade, which Japan advocated at the recent G20 Summit. Japanese representative Ihara stressed that the step was taken for security reasons and does not violate any WTO rule. All other TV networks also carried reports on the WTO meeting.
In a related development, Sankei wrote that at a news conference on Tuesday South Korea’s Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun Mo dismissed an allegation that hydrogen fluoride may have been transferred from South Korea to the North after being imported from Japan. The ROK official insisted that Japan immediately retract the allegation because there has been no evidence of the material being transferred to UN-sanctioned nations including the DPRK.
Jiji Press reported this morning that Sung said at a news conference yesterday that the two sides are considering meeting on Friday on this issue. However, Jiji cited informed sources saying that at the envisaged meeting Japan will only explain its reasoning for imposing tighter export controls and ask the ROK to implement thorough export controls on materials that can be converted to military use.