Japan OKs 5 exports of three materials under restrictions to S. Korea

SEJONG-- Japan has approved just five exports of three key industrial materials under restrictions to South Korea in the nearly three months since early July, industry sources said Monday.

Japan has given the green light to exports of photoresist on three occasions, and fluorine polyimide and etching gas on each occasion since July 4 when Tokyo imposed tighter regulations on exports to Seoul of the materials that are critical for the production of semiconductors and flexible displays, according to the sources.

Under the new rules, Japanese companies are required to apply for an individual license to export the three materials to South Korea, a process that can take up to 90 days.

Japan's latest move is seen as its thinly veiled attempt to make its case that its restrictions do not run counter to international trade norms under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

South Korea claimed Japan's measure is a discriminatory act directly targeting it and was apparent retaliation against last year's South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier this month, South Korea filed a complaint with the WTO on Japan's curbs on exports of the three materials.

Japan agreed to start consultations with South Korea. The two neighbors are expected to hold their first consultations over the issue in October, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

If the two fail to narrow their differences, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body will establish a panel to look deeper into the case. The entire process is expected to take more than three years, experts said.

Last month, Japan also removed South Korea from its "whitelist" of trusted trading partners. Early this month, South Korea also stripped Japan of its own list of trusted trade partners in a tit-for-tat measure.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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