SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday that Japan's allegations that South Korea exported banned goods to North Korea are "a major challenge" in the face of mounting controversy over Japanese export restrictions.
FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a meeting with leaders of the 30 largest South Korean conglomerates in the President's Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on July 10, 2019. Yonhap via REUTERS / File Photo
Japan tightened export restrictions on three materials used in high-tech equipment and cited the "inadequate management" of sensitive goods exported to South Korea.
The curbs were viewed in response to a recent South Korean court's ruling ordering a Japanese firm to compensate South Koreans forced to work during World War II.
Japanese officials have cited "inadequate management" of sensitive goods exported to South Korea as a cause of the curbs and lack of exchange of information on export controls.
In addition to the tensions, the Japanese stations NHK and FNN reported that hydrogen fluoride, one of the three curb-covered materials that can also be used for chemical weapons, was shipped to North Korea after being exported to the South.
South Korea said the reports were unfounded and that it had done a better job than Japan to keep an eye on illegal exports.
North Korea was sanctioned for its missile and nuclear weapons programs, which it pursued for years despite US Security Council resolutions.
"It is a great challenge for our government not only to faithfully adhere to the global export control and sanctions regime, but also to do everything possible to develop inter-Korean relations and peace within the sanction framework," said Moon.
The two countries held five-hour marathon talks in Tokyo on Friday, but the feud was only deepened and both sides presented conflicting reports on the other side's demands.
There are concerns that the series could jeopardize the global supply of microchips and smartphones, while at the same time preventing critical cooperation in countering North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Moon urged Tokyo to stop the "consuming" dispute by jointly obtaining an investigation from an international organization and withdrawing the curbs in dialogue.
"I warn that the move will ultimately cause more damage to the Japanese economy as our companies break from their confidence in Japanese materials, parts and equipment, diversify their sources of imports and locate the products," he said.
Seoul has designated the export restrictions as "retaliatory measures" and referred them to the World Trade Organization. Japanese officials have refused to comment directly on the media reports of alleged exports to North Korea.
Relations between Washington's two Asian allies have long been plagued by memories of the Japanese colonization of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and the war, including the issue of "comfort women," a euphemism for girls and women who work for Japanese military will be forced into war brothels.
Japan says the question of forced labor has been settled by the 1965 treaty.
coverage by Hyonhee Shin, Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie