All national dailies on Saturday reported prominently on the Japan-ROK working-level meeting on Friday, noting that the meeting, scheduled for one hour, stretched to more than five hours. According to the Japanese side, Japan explained the legitimacy and reasons for tightening controls on sensitive semiconductor material exports and informed the ROK of the detection of cases of mishandling such materials. The ROK side asked for detailed information, but reportedly did not ask for the revocation of the measure. At a news conference held on Friday evening, an official of the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy explained that the ROK side expressed serious concern about the adverse effect of Japan’s export curb on the global supply chain. Yomiuri and Nikkei said that the meeting basically consisted of the “verification of facts” as originally intended by the Japanese side.
All papers also reported on Saturday that the ROK presidential office disclosed on Friday that it has proposed to Japan that the two countries ask UN experts or an appropriate international organization to look into Japan’s claim that the ROK violated UN sanctions on North Korea and that its export control regime is inadequate, saying if the claim is not substantiated, Japan should apologize and withdraw the export curbs. Mainichi cited a government source expressing doubt that an international organization would be able to conduct such an investigation, calling the proposal “baffling.” Sankei said a senior Foreign Ministry official commented that asking an international body to judge a country’s export control regime is “unheard of.” Japan was reportedly also irked by the ROK’s efforts to solicit the U.S.’s support by sending senior officials to Washington and claiming that Japan’s export curbs will compromise U.S.-Japan-ROK cooperation. Mainichi quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying that the export curbs and trilateral cooperation are “completely unrelated.”
All newspapers reported on Sunday that Japan and the ROK appear to differ on whether the ROK asked for the withdrawal of the export curbs at the meeting on Friday, with the ROK claiming that it did and METI refuting the claim at a news conference on Saturday. They also wrote that the ROK will raise the issue of Japan’s export curbs at the WTO General Council meeting opening in Geneva on July 23.
In a related development, Nikkei reported from Seoul on Monday that the Federation of Korean Industries released on Sunday results of a survey of 50 representatives of companies doing business with Japan, securities analysts, and trade experts on how the ROK government should respond to Japan’s export curbs. It was found that 48% favored dialogue, 30% opted for local production of critical materials, and only 10% supported bringing the matter to the WTO, which the ROK government is planning to do.
All TV stations reported on Monday that ROK President Moon criticized Japan’s export curbs at a meeting in the Blue House on Monday and warned Japan that if ROK companies diversify their suppliers of semiconductors and promote local production, Japan will suffer damage from its own action. NHK also reported on Monday evening that Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Cheong Seung-il stated on Monday that the ROK has proposed holding bureau-chief- level talks with Japan before July 24, which is the deadline for soliciting public comments on dropping the ROK from the “white list” of countries receiving preferential treatment in export procedures. NHK said it is uncertain if a meeting will be held.