Talks held with Japan on the export controls

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Talks held with Japan on the export controls

Korean and Japanese trade officials held talks to discuss the export controls the two countries have placed on each other.

It was the first such meeting since Seoul effectively withdrew its World Trade Organization (WTO) complaint against Tokyo last week.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a briefing Friday at the Central Government Complex in Seoul that the talks were held with Japan a day earlier to schedule official discussions on the subject of the export controls.

It explained that the two sides have agreed to meet for higher-level discussions in Vienna on Dec. 4 before official discussions on the matter, slated for the third week of next month in Tokyo.

Relations between the two countries have rapidly deteriorated over the past few months after Tokyo in July implemented controls on the export to Korea of three industrial materials essential for semiconductor manufacturing.

Seoul filed a complaint with the WTO over the measure in September, arguing that it was politically motivated and related to a diplomatic dispute stemming from a Korean Supreme Court decision last year on compensation for forced wartime labor.

The two sides have engaged in consultations at the trade body, a step prior to an actual WTO panel reviewing the complaint and delivering a ruling.

Relations with Tokyo continued to be poor as both countries have removed each other from their lists of preferential trade partners, the so-called white lists.

Tokyo has maintained that the restrictions were made due to security concerns.

The dispute led to boycott movements in Korea against Japanese products.

According to trade data, Korea imported only $38,000 worth of Japanese beer last month, a drop of 99.5 percent from the previous year.

Seoul warned that it would scrap a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, which has served as a symbol of cooperation between the two key allies to Washington.

Amid growing U.S. pressure, Seoul announced on Nov. 22 that it would not end the agreement and also halted its WTO complaint proceedings. Despite the apparent concessions from Seoul, Tokyo has still maintained the export curbs, while agreeing to begin talks on resolving the matter.

The new discussions will aim at returning to conditions prior to Tokyo’s July measures.

“Our goal is to solve the white list problem and the export restrictions on three materials through these talks,” explained Lee Ho-hyeon, director-general for international trade policy, during the briefing. “We expect the discussions to discuss bilateral export management and thoroughly and prudently check these problems.”

The trade official highlighted the quick progress to hold discussions, while remaining wary of an immediate resolution.

“In a way, there were incredibly close discussions and cooperation between officials in a short period of time since the announcement on the 22nd,” said Lee. “It is difficult to make predictions, however, we will do our best to resolve the problem swiftly.”

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