Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

S. Korea calls for intl probe over feud with Japan

S. Korea calls for intl probe over feud with Japan

Japan last week tightened restrictions on the export of three materials used in smartphone displays and chips, after South Korea's "failure to act" in response to a ruling by a court last October ordering Japan's Nippon Steel Corp to compensate former forced laborers.

"To halt unnecessary disputes and to determine factual basis of the Japanese government's claims, we suggest a panel of UN Security Council experts or an appropriate worldwide organization to conduct a fair investigation", he said in televised statement.

The officials spoke to reporters before leaving Tokyo for Seoul on Saturday, following a round of talks on Friday that lasted about five hours.

South Korea's presidential National Security Office (NSO) on Friday proposed to Japan that the two countries jointly ask an global body to probe into the handling of strategic materials by both countries after Japan's indication of South Korea having illegally smuggled the materials to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). He met Kim three times past year.

South Korea insists that its export controls are stronger than Japan's.

The South Korean official said he pushed back against Japan's insistence that the measures are in the interest of national security and do not violate World Trade Organization rules. The move, which could potentially hurt South Korean technology companies that manufacture semiconductors and display screens used in TVs and smartphones, has triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute between the countries that further soured relations long troubled over Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea before the end of World War II.

In response, Japanese officials explained the reason for the stricter export measures.

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Xi and Trump have both held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently - Xi before the G20 summit during a trip to Pyongyang, and Trump after the summit, when he met Kim at the Demilitarised Zone along the North's border with South Korea.

In a statement denouncing Seoul for its recent acquisition of a number of new stealth jets from the US, an unnamed policy director at the foreign ministry's Institute for American Studies said the move would serve to heighten tensions on the peninsula.

In September 2014, South Korea announced a deal to procure 40 F-35 fighters in a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal worth about $6.1 billion.

Observers have linked the export dispute to the emotionally charged row over Korean forced labor and forced prostitution.

Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for Japanese shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korea, saying such materials can be exported only to trustworthy trading partners.

Thursday's warning comes as North Korean and US officials are expected to soon resume nuclear negotiations to follow up on their leaders' third meeting at the Korean border late last month.

He told Reuters the two sides had discussed what they would disclose but that there was no agreement.

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