Business

Japanese and South Korean trade officials to hold export control talks in December

Kyodo

Senior trade officials from Japan and South Korea will meet next month to discuss Tokyo’s tightened controls on tech-related exports to its neighbor, trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said Friday.

The director-general-level meeting, set to take place during the third week of December in Tokyo, will be the first in 3½ years and the first since Japan took the measures in July.

Preparatory talks will be held Wednesday in Vienna, Kajiyama told a news conference, adding working-level officials also met on Thursday.

Japan revoked South Korea’s preferential status as a destination for three materials used to produce semiconductors and display panels in early July. It then removed Seoul from a whitelist of trusted trade partners the following month.

Japan cited concerns about South Korea’s lax export controls and the implications for national security, but Seoul argues the tightened measures are being used as leverage in a long-standing dispute over compensation for wartime forced labor.

The countries had agreed to have their trade officials restart the stalled talks as part of South Korea’s decision to suspend the termination of a military intelligence-sharing pact and retract a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization. The General Security of Military Information Agreement was set to expire last Friday.

Kajiyama said he was confident that “through continuous conversation, things will begin to head in a good direction.”

But there are already signs Japan and South Korea have vastly different expectations for the meetings.

Lee Ho-hyeon, director-general for international trade policy at South Korea’s trade ministry, said the ultimate goal of the talks was to reinstate Seoul’s place on the whitelist.

“This is the most important item on the agenda in the two countries’ export control issue,” he told a news briefing.

But Kajiyama said the talks were intended to be an opportunity to “check the current situation, rather than find a solution.”