Japan Says Export Step Not Aimed at Hurting S. Korea
Japan said Thursday it has given an export permit for a shipment of materials headed for the South Korean semiconductor industry.
The Japanese government hopes the approval will show that the country is not banning exports to South Korea because of a historical dispute between the sides.
Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko announced the approval, saying that officials decided the shipment did not raise security concerns.
The process of approving export permits "is not arbitrary," Seko told reporters. "The step we took recently is not an export ban."
Last month, Japan placed export controls on three important materials used by South Korea's semiconductor industry. South Korea considers the export controls an attack on the country's most important industry.
In addition, Japan's Cabinet decided to remove South Korea from a list of countries that have preferred trade status. The products of nations that have preferred trade status move easily across borders.
The decision became official Wednesday when the government published it. The measure will take effect on August 28.
A Japanese government spokesman denied Wednesday that the trade decisions were a retaliatory move.
The two countries are arguing over South Korean court rulings that order Japanese companies to pay money to Korean laborers forced to work during World War II.
Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. The country says that a 1965 agreement, which normalized relations between the two countries, settled any money issues.
Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Wednesday that the measures are related to Japan's national security concerns. He denied that the move was in answer to Japan's anger over the court rulings.
He called the measures "necessary...from a national security point of view."
Suga also said, "It was not intended to affect Japan-South Korea relations."
Japanese officials have said that South Korea's export control system and operation is not of the highest possible quality. Because of this, they say, the country can no longer have preferred trade status.
Suga said the measure puts South Korea back to normal status. "It's not an export ban," he added.
Japanese officials have denied South Korea's charge that they are using trade to answer the court rulings. But many South Koreans do not believe Japan is being truthful.
Japan also says South Korea violated international law by trying to force Japanese companies to compensate beyond the 1965 agreement. Japan provided $500 million in loans and aid under that deal.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was recently asked about the possibility of meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in at upcoming international events. He said the main cause of the problem between the two countries is the wartime compensation issue.
Observers say the conflict is preventing the two nations from cooperating on security issues. These include efforts to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. Some critics also say the dispute is damaging Japan's image as an economic leader in Asia.
I'm Susan Shand.