• Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

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Senior trade officials from Japan and South Korea will meet on Dec. 16 to discuss Tokyo’s tightened controls on technology-related exports to its Asian neighbor, industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said Thursday.

The talks, to be held in Tokyo, will be the first of their kind since Japan implemented the control measures in July, prompting a further deterioration in bilateral ties already strained over the issue of compensation for wartime labor.

The last round of such talks on trade control were in June 2016.

Kajiyama suggested that Japan could review the tighter export controls if the South Korean side improves its export management system, adding that are “insufficiencies” in South Korea’s export controls, such as poor export screenings.

“I hope that through dialogue, we can step up cooperation on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Kajiyama told reporters.

Japan has placed stricter regulations on exporting some materials to South Korea used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels that are crucial for the South’s dominant tech industry.

Tokyo also removed South Korea from a “whitelist” of trusted trade partners, claiming that Seoul was not doing enough to ensure goods that could be diverted for military use were not smuggled into other countries.

The two countries agreed Wednesday, in a preparatory meeting in Vienna, on the date for the director general-level talks. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had cited a lack of policy dialogue as one of the reasons for its loss of trust in South Korea.

South Korea, meanwhile, has demanded that the tighter export controls be lifted, calling them retaliation for the country’s top court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate people who were victims of forced labor during the 1910-1945 period when the Korean Peninsula was under Japan’s colonial rule.

Seoul had filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Tokyo’s tightening of export controls and threatened to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact, but agreed last month to put both steps on hold while trade talks with Japan continue.

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