TOKYO — Japan said Tuesday it did not plan to retract or negotiate its tightened controls on high-tech exports to South Korea, a day after the South Korean president urged diplomacy.
Approvals were tightened last week for Japanese shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korean companies. Japanese officials say those materials can be exported only to the trustworthy, alluding to security risks, while denying Seoul’s view that the measure was retaliation as the two countries’ ties deteriorate over historical issues.
“The measure is not a subject for consultation and we have no intention of withdrawing it either,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.
He was responding to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s request for a diplomatic solution thorough “sincere” bilateral discussions, urging Tokyo to withdraw what he described as a politically motivated measure.
Moon also said his country would be forced to take countermeasure if the Japanese trade measures damage South Korean companies. Japan’s trade curbs have raised concern about disrupted production at South Korean companies and the threat it poses to global supply chains, he said.
South Korea sees Japan’s trade measures as retaliation for recent South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Korean plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II. South Korea’s Trade Ministry has said Seoul plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Japan’s export restrictions cover fluorinated polyimides, which are used in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens for TV’s and smartphones, and photoresist and hydrogen fluoride, used for making semiconductors.
Japanese officials say those chemicals are sensitive materials that can be used in fighter jets, radars and chemical weapons. They say the decision to tighten export controls was based on a lack of trust that posed a risk to national security.
They haven’t elaborated on the alleged security risks, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ultra-conservative aides recently raised suspicion of illegal transfers of sensitive materials from South Korea to North Korea.
Japan’s trade and industry minister Hiroshige Seko said Tokyo will hold a meeting to explain the export controls per South Korean export control authorities’ request. He added that South Korea has not yet asked Japan to resolve the dispute through the WTO.