If Ulrike Schaede is right — and I wouldn’t bet against her — then the decision last year to tighten export control vis-a-vis South Korea is a disastrous move that could do far greater damage to Japan than it will to that country.

Regardless of whether it was driven by genuine concerns about trade diversion and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or pique at court rulings in Seoul on the issue of wartime labor, the Japanese government’s decision last summer to require approval for each export of three specialty chemicals to South Korea and remove it from the "whitelist" of countries entitled to preferential trade treatment threatens Japan’s most visionary companies.

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