Japan firms back export curbs amid stalemate with South Korea


Business leaders have shown some support for the government’s planned strengthening of controls on semiconductor material exports to South Korea as an apparent attempt to break a diplomatic deadlock over the issue of wartime labor.

“I want (South Korea) to take seriously the Japanese government’s message that bilateral trust has been significantly shaken, and I want (the bilateral ties) to get back to a normal state soon,” Kengo Sakurada, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, or Keizai Doyukai, told a news conference Tuesday.

South Korea “is not trying to make a move to resolve the problem,” said Akio Mimura, head of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents small and midsize businesses.

Seoul has maintained a defensive stance, saying it will take necessary steps including filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

Annual trade between Japan and South Korea totals nearly ¥10 trillion.

Ties between private companies in the two countries have been strengthening in some respects, with Japanese and South Korean firms jointly winning a liquefied natural gas plant order in a third country.

Yet worsening ties are already taking a toll on bilateral economic exchanges, with the Japan-Korea Business Conference, a meeting of business leaders from the two countries slated to be held in Seoul in May, being postponed to the second half of the year.

Cancellation of the meeting for the first time since the conference was launched in 1969 could lead to a further deterioration in bilateral economic ties, experts warned.

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