Tokyo, Sept. 13 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government will respond “in an appropriate manner” to a South Korean request for starting bilateral talks over trade in key semiconductor materials in the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement process, new Japanese trade minister Isshu Sugawara has said.
Abiding by WTO rules, Tokyo will make the reply within 10 days after South Korea’s filing Wednesday of complaint with the global free trade body about Japan’s tightening of its control of exports of the sensitive chemical substances to the neighboring Asian nation, Sugawara said in an interview on Thursday.
Seoul alleges that Tokyo, against free trade rules, slapped an export curb on the cutting-edge products in retaliation against the top South Korean court’s compensation orders for Japanese companies in wartime labor lawsuits filed by the firms’ former workers requisitioned in the Korean Peninsula, then under Japan’s colonial rule, during World War II.
Sugawara reiterated the position of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration that Japan’s shift to deal-by-deal approval of South Korean-bound exports of the materials capable of being used for military purposes should be taken as consistent with WTO rules because it is aimed at appropriately controlling trade and technology transfers.
Asked whether there would be effective measures to mend the deteriorated Tokyo-Seoul ties, he said, “Given a series of negative action by South Korea including the WWII labor issue, I think it’s a tough situation.”
On the prolonged power outages mainly in Chiba Prefecture, hit severely by typhoon Faxai, Sugawara, who assumed the ministerial post in Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle, said, “An event that seems far beyond our imagination is taking place.”
Then he underscored the importance of the government figuring out why it happened so it can make power supply infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters.
Commenting on Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> plans to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, Sugawara, who once highlighted his stance against nuclear power generation, pointed out that the government’s consistent policy is putting back online reactors that meet new safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
“The best energy mix should be pursued,” he said, adding that the government is trying to reduce the reliance on nuclear energy as much as possible in view of the stringent standards.
“I hope to help develop new technologies to achieve highly efficient electricity generation with reduced carbon dioxide emissions,” he also said.