Tokyo / Seoul (dpa) - Japan is serious in the trade dispute with South Korea. On Wednesday, a recent decision by the right-wing conservative government in Tokyo came into force to cancel the neighboring country from the so-called "white list" of preferred trading partners.
Previously, Japan imposed stricter export controls on chip production materials. South Korea commented on Japan's "strong regret" approach. Deputy National Security Advisor Kim Hyun Chong accused Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of treating South Korea "as an enemy".
South Korea had threatened retaliation by cutting Japan off its own "white list". In addition, Seoul recently ended an intelligence deal with Tokyo. Despite the aggravation of the dispute, the South Korean government is seeking dialogue.
There is deep mistrust between the two important US allies, which goes back decades and has its origins in Japan's colonial rule in Korea (1910-1945).
From a South Korean point of view, Japan has not fully acknowledged its crimes committed at that time, such as forced labor or the abuse of tens of thousands of young Koreans during the Second World War as forced prostitutes. The Supreme Court in South Korea fueled the dispute last year by ordering Japanese corporations to pay compensation to former forced laborers. Tokyo considers the issue of compensation through a contract of 1965 as settled.
Japan had justified the tightening of export controls by stating that mutual trust had been undermined and there had been security concerns over some exports to South Korea, without explaining it. South Korea, on the other hand, speaks of retribution.
Japanese companies are now required to apply for licenses each time for the export of certain materials, such as photoresists used in chip production. These are high-quality primary products that are difficult to replace and would first hit the chip industry. South Korea's chip industry is the largest in the world, but relies on upstream products from Japan.
Despite the aggravation of the dispute Seoul expressed his hope to talk to Tokyo. "We expect Japan to accept the outstretched hand," said Security Advisor Kim.
Also, South Korea could cancel its decision to end the intelligence agreement, if Tokyo relent. Earlier, the State Department had summoned the Japanese ambassador to Seoul to protest the downgrading of Tokyo's trade status by South Korea.