Officials to meet this month on restrictions

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Officials to meet this month on restrictions

Senior officials from Korea and Japan will meet Dec. 16 in Tokyo to discuss on Japan’s restrictions on exports, a possible step toward improving relations.

The meeting will be the first between the two countries on export management policies in three years and will be held ahead of a bilateral meeting between President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to take place later this month.

The Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Thursday said that in preparatory talks held in Vienna Wednesday, the two sides agreed to hold a director-general-level meeting on trade issues on Dec. 16.

Lee Ho-hyeon, director-general for international trade policy at the Korean Trade Ministry, will be leading the Korean team. Yoichi Iida, director-general for trade control at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will lead Tokyo’s team.

“Both sides have agreed that future policy discussions will help better understand the mutual interests of each country’s export control system,” said a Korean ministry official.

The last time export management discussions were held between the two countries was in June 2016.

When Japan started restricting exports of key industrial components in July and later dropped Korea from its so-called white list of countries afforded fast-track export processing the following month, it said one of its reasons was the fact that such meetings had not been held.

Japan accused Korea of lax export controls that threatened its national security, while the Korean government said Japan’s restrictions were retaliation for Korean Supreme Court rulings last year forcing Japanese companies to compensate wartime forced labor.

The Korean government dropped Japan from its own white list of trading partners and filed a complaint about the Japanese trade restrictions with the World Trade Organization.

The diplomatic standoff between the two neighbors showed signs of improvement after the Moon Jae-in government decided to extend an intelligence-sharing agreement, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which it previously threatened to end.

A week ago, Trade Ministry Director-General Lee, who will be leading the Korean team on Dec. 16, told reporters that the goal of the Korean team is to restore Korea’s trade status in Japan to what it was before Tokyo started tightening controls.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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