S. Korea urges Japan to engage in ‘unconditional’ dialogue to resolve export row

August 29, 2019

 South Korea urged Japan on Thursday to sit down for “unconditional and serious” dialogue to resolve a row over Tokyo’s export restrictions, stressing the need especially for talks between trade authorities of the two sides.

Kim Jung-han, director-general of Asian and Pacific Affairs at Seoul’s foreign ministry, delivered the message in a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Kenji Kanasugi, the ministry said.

The meeting came a day after Tokyo enforced its decision to remove Seoul from its list of favored trade partners, a second measure following its toughening of export screening in July for key materials crucial to the South Korean electronics industry.

Kanasugi arrived in Seoul for talks with Seoul officials earlier in the day. The two diplomats last met in Beijing last week.

In Thursday’s meeting, Kim strongly called for the Japanese government, particularly the trade ministry, to swiftly agree to serious consultations without condition and asked for cooperation to make it happen, the ministry said in a release.

His visit follows Tokyo’s implementation Wednesday of its decision to remove Seoul from the “whitelist” of countries granted fast-track screening for purchasing items that can be diverted for military use.

South Korean deputy national security advisor Kim Hyun-chong expressed deep regret over enforcement of the measure. The foreign ministry summoned Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine to lodge a formal complaint.

Concerning the issue of Japan’s potential discharge of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Kim reiterated that Japan should release to Korea its plans in detail as to how it will carry out the disposal.

They also exchanged views on topics of mutual concern, including the forced labor issue, and agreed to continue bilateral communication through diplomatic channels, the ministry added.

Seoul-Tokyo ties have chilled seriously over a row surrounding South Korean Supreme Court rulings last year that ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.

The dispute has spilled into economic and security realms, with Tokyo implementing tougher export control measures and Seoul deciding last week to end a military intelligence-sharing pact, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), with the neighbor.

Japan maintains that the export curbs are not related to forced labor and that Seoul must keep its pledge on reparation issues as agreed in a 1965 treaty that normalized their ties.

The Korean top court ruled that individual rights to claim damages cannot be overridden by a bilateral agreement. Japan has argued the treaty has settled all wartime issues, including compensation for victims.

South Korea proposed in June creating a joint fund with contributions from Korean and Japanese companies to compensate victims. Japan has flatly rejected the offer.

Later in the day, Kanasugi, who also serves as Japan’s top nuclear envoy, met his Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon.

They discussed tripartite cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and ways to facilitate stalled nuclear talks between the North and the U.S., the ministry said in a separate release.