‘Japan’s measures are insufficient’

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‘Japan’s measures are insufficient’

Seoul is reiterating that while Tokyo’s partial lifting of export restrictions on Korea ahead of an upcoming bilateral summit between the two countries’ leaders is a step in the right direction, it isn’t sufficient to resolve their fundamental problem.

Japan on Friday lifted curbs on exports of photoresists, used for semiconductor production in Korea, and Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo told reporters Sunday at Gimpo International Airport, “I view it as insufficient to resolving the fundamental problem of the export controls.”

However, Sung noted that the easing of Japan’s export restrictions was a “voluntary measure, and I see this as partial progress.”

Japan’s move Friday was seen as an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of bilateral talks between Korea President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe Tuesday along the sidelines of a trilateral summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Chengdu in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province.

Sung was on his way to Beijing for trade pact talks with his Japanese and Chinese counterparts and elaborated that a resolution to the issue would be the return to the state before the export curbs were implemented by Japan.

Japan at the beginning of July announced export restrictions on three key industrial materials needed in the production of chips and displays in Korea - photoresists, etching gas and fluorinated polyimide. In August, Japan removed Korea from its so-called white list of most trusted trading partners. Korea in turn announced it will terminate its bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan but last month decided to conditionally extend the intelligence-sharing pact as the two sides try to resolve their trade and historical spat.

Tokyo has protested the Korean Supreme Court rulings last year ordering Japanese companies to compensate forced labor victims from World War II, an issue its sees as being resolved with the 1965 bilateral claims agreement.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang ahead of the summit introduced his so-called one-plus-one bill last week to establish a foundation comprised of voluntary contributions from the related companies and people of the two countries to resolve the forced labor compensation issue. The bill has received a lukewarm response in Korea, and a Blue House official on Friday stressed the importance of respecting the Supreme Court’s ruling on the forced labor issue.

Speaker Moon in a statement on his website Sunday wrote on the controversy over the one-plus-one bill, “This solution can be enacted into law under the precondition that it respects the Supreme Court decisions on the forced labor compensation issue.”

He expressed “regret over the misconstruing of the process toward the enactment of this bill, its background and good will.”

He likewise said that the bill is based on the precondition of Japan’s apology but that “such an apology is a political matter and needs to be agreed upon by the leaders through a statement and cannot be stipulated under Korean domestic law.”

Ruling and opposition parties generally viewed Japan’s partial lifting of curbs as a move in the right direction but stressed that this is not enough.

Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo, a spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party, said in a statement Saturday, “Only the restoration of the status quo through the withdrawal of export measures will be the first button toward normalizing Korea-Japan relations.”

He added, “The Japanese government through its voluntary easing [of some trade restrictions] has shown a willingness to talk, and this is desirable but still remains insufficient.”

Lee Chang-soo, spokesman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, in a statement, recognized Japan’s move as a “small but positive change” but noted that “this is just a makeshift policy if there isn’t a fundamental resolution to the issues.” He added that the Blue House and government needs to “maintain a cool-headed viewpoint” in the upcoming bilateral summit.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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