Japan and South Korea say they're willing to meet over Tokyo's move to tighten regulations on vital tech exports to its neighbor, but neither has much political incentive to climb down from one of their worst economic disputes in decades.

Decades of mistrust make it difficult for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to retreat from their budding trade feud. A series of looming deadlines, including the Upper House election on July 21, are only raising the political pressure on both men, who can't afford to look weak dealing with disagreements rooted in Japan's 1910-45 occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, Moon, who was elected in 2017 on a promise to reconsider his predecessor's moves to ease historical spats with Japan, warned business leaders in Seoul of a "prolonged" battle. At an election debate last week, Abe accused South Korea of reneging on its promises.