Tokyo at daggers drawn with Seul
Japan has asked South Korea to provide further explanations as to why it plans to remove Japan from a list of countries entitled to preferential trade treatment, Japan's Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Thursday, according to Xinhua's article Japan seeks further explanation from S. Korea about plan to remove it from trade list. "The reasoning and details are not clear so we have been seeking further explanations from South Korea," Seko was quoted as telling a press briefing, adding that Japan is not planning bilateral negotiations at this juncture. It's not something that can be decided or changed through consultations," Seko said.
South Korea has said it plans to remove Japan from its list of 29 nations that are granted a swifter application process for exports. Japan's removal is slated to take place around September, with Seoul saying that if requested by Tokyo it is prepared to be consulted on the matter. Seoul has also said it will seek the public's opinions, before the change is brought into effect.
The move came as bilateral relations soured, with Japan, citing national security reasons, planning to remove South Korea from its "white list" of countries granted preferential treatment when it comes to exporting products that could potentially be diverted for military use. This change is slated to come into effect on Aug. 28, the government has said.
Japan has already imposed tighter export controls on some materials bound for South Korea that are used to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs in a move that drew the ire of the South Korean side.
Relations between both sides began to fray last year following a series of court rulings in South Korea ordering some Japanese firms to pay compensation to the victims of forced wartime labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan believes the matter of compensation was resolved in a bilateral pact inked between both sides in 1965.
The strained ties have seen South Korean consumers in some instances boycotting Japanese goods and inbound tourism from South Korea to Japan has also suffered with some South Korean carriers reducing or suspending flights between cities of both countries.
On the negative impact the diminished ties are having on Japan's tourism industry, Japan's top government spokesperson said the Japanese government will do all it can to overcome it.
"We have seen more Japan-bound flights from China and Southeast Asia thanks to an increase in tourists. We will get over the fallout from the row and aim to attain our goal of attracting 40 million foreign visitors in 2020," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Meanwhile, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported that Seoul has struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for talks with Japan to resolve their dispute over export controls.
He said Seoul will "gladly join hands" if Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, NHK quoted Moon as saying.
The remarks from the South Korean president were made at a ceremony to mark the end of Japan's colonial rule over the nation from 1910 to 1945. In South Korea, Aug. 15 is known as "Liberation Day."
NHK said the South Korean president recognized that Japan had developed its economy under a peaceful free trade order and a country that has achieved growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps.
Moon said he hopes Japan will play a leading role with South Korea in facilitating peace and stability in East Asia while contemplating a past that brought misfortune to its neighbors, NHK reported.