Japan mentioned one-month time frame for export curb retraction: sources

November 25, 2019

 Japan has mentioned a specific time frame to retract its export curbs against South Korea, sources said Monday, in a concession that contradicts claims Tokyo did not yield an inch in negotiations that led to Seoul’s decision last week to suspend the expiry of a bilateral military pact.

Tokyo said it would take about a month for the revocation of the trade restrictions while proposing talks about the issue ahead of Friday’s expiry of General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), the sources said.

Japan first imposed the restrictions in July in apparent retaliation for last year’s Korean Supreme Court rulings against Japanese firms over wartime forced labor. The following month, Korea decided to end GSOMIA, calling for Tokyo to cancel the curbs.

“The Japanese side said that in order to roll back the export restrictions, they need to confirm that there is no problem in South Korea’s import and export management system, though it is a formality,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

“They said it would take about a month,” the source added.

Following Japan’s mention of the timeframe and its proposal for the resumption of talks between the export control authorities of the two countries, Seoul put off the GSOMIA termination set for midnight Friday.

But tensions flared up as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly claimed that Tokyo had conceded nothing in the trade tussle, with Japanese media characterizing the temporary GSOMIA extension as an absolute victory for Tokyo.

Seoul was quick to criticize the media reports. It has argued that the director general-level talks between the export control authorities of the two countries will proceed in a direction that will ultimately lead to Tokyo lifting its export restrictions.

Friday’s decision to put off the GSOMIA expiry capped weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts by Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to salvage GSOMIA, which the U.S. sees as a crucial tool to foster its trilateral security cooperation with the Asian allies.