Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

South Korea, Japan Descend Further Into Tech Spat

Koreas US Diplomacy North Korea threatens to “destroy” South’s F-35 stealth fighter jets
Deanna Wagner | 13 July, 2019, 16:41

He says Japanese officials said, without specifying, that there have been "inappropriate" cases regarding Japanese exports to South Korea, but that they were unrelated to illegal shipments to a third country.

A South Korean lawmaker of the minor conservative Bareun Future Party claimed Wednesday that Japan had illegally smuggled strategic materials to the DPRK, citing documents from Japan's Center for Information on Security Trade Controls (CISTEC).

The official said the government was not linking the two issues and that "logically speaking" the more stringent controls could be removed if South Korea addressed Japan's concerns about its export control system.

South Korea has proposed an global probe into Japan's accusations that it shipped sensitive industrial materials to North Korea, with the presidential office demanding an apology and a withdrawal of Japan's recent export curbs if the claim turns out to be untrue.

Friday's talks began with two negotiators from each side facing off in stony silence in a small meeting room, without greeting each other and with the Japanese officials not standing or bowing when their Korean counterparts entered.

It worsened last week when Japan said it would tighten curbs on exports of three materials crucial for advanced consumer electronics because trust with South Korea had been broken over the forced labour dispute.

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In the Friday talks, South Korean officials expressed regret over Japan's export restrictions and asked Tokyo to remove them, participant Han Cheol-hee, a trade ministry director, told reporters as he was leaving Japan on Saturday. He demanded that Japan provide evidence for claims made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his conservative aides that there may have been illegal transfers of sensitive materials from South Korea to North Korea.

Japan's curbs are a blow to South Korea, as the world's biggest supplier of computer chips and displays used in TVs and smartphones needs the chemicals.

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

An official from the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the purchase of the jets is a "direct challenge" to an inter-Korean military agreement signed in September 2018 and threatened to develop "special armaments to completely destroy" them.

In response, Japanese officials explained the reason for the stricter export measures. South Korea denies the allegations. At a briefing on Friday, Japanese officials said that the topic of supply chains was not brought up.