Japan tells South Korea officials export curbs are not countermeasures

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North Korea threatens to “destroy” South’s F-35 stealth fighter jets

Lee Ho-hyeon, an official from South Korea's trade ministry, said Japanese officials in the meeting cited inadequate bilateral discussions as a reason why their government tightened controls on high-tech exports to South Korea, but didn't clearly say whether Tokyo believes Seoul may have illegally transferred sensitive materials to North Korea.

Japan's curbs are a blow to South Korea, as the world's biggest supplier of computer chips and displays used in TVs and smartphones needs the chemicals.

President Moon Jae-in issued a strong warning message to Japan on Monday for its continued economic pressure on South Korea, while reaffirming a priority on a diplomatic resolution to the latest stand-off between the neighbors. It comes amid deep frustration in Japan over what is seen as Seoul's failure to act in response to a South Korean court ruling ordering a Japanese company to compensate former forced laborers.

The first face-to-face discussions between Japan and South Korea about the export controls on Friday exposed deep divides between the two US allies, with each side providing differing accounts of what was said.

Seoul has called the export curbs "retaliatory" and referred it to the World Trade Organization.

Koreans' view of Japan is at its dimmest in living memory after Tokyo restricted exports of goods vital to Korean IT giants.

Japan maintained that the tighter controls on some tech-related materials being exported to South Korea are based on issues of national security. But there is concern that Japan will expand its export controls to other industries.

South Korea has denied such allegations, and the office of President Moon Jae In said Friday it has proposed asking an worldwide organization to look into the claim.

Japanese officials have declined to comment directly on the media reports that South Korea had shipped some quantity of one of the materials to North Korea.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) also disputed a Korean official's statement that Seoul had asked Japan on Friday to withdraw the restrictions. "Even more Japanese products could have gone to North Korea through the global black market". North Korea on Thursday, July 11, 2019, slammed South Korea for introducing high-tech US stealth fighters, warning that it will respond by developing unspecified special weapons. Retailers have also reported modest drops in sales of Japanese beer. Without presenting specific examples, Tokyo has questioned Seoul's credibility in controlling the exports of arms and dual-use items that can be used both for civilian and military purposes. Abe and his conservative aides suggested there may have been illegal transfers of sensitive materials from South Korea to North Korea. Earlier, South Korea criticized Japan at a WTO conference on July 9.

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