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Vice unification minister to meet Japanese official amid trade dispute

Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho will meet with a Japanese official during his three-day trip to Tokyo this week, a ministry official said Tuesday, amid escalating tensions between the two countries over Japan's export restrictions.

Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho (Yonhap)
Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho (Yonhap)

Suh left for Japan earlier in the day to give a keynote speech at a side event of the Korea Global Forum for Peace hosted by the unification ministry.

"A meeting with a Japanese government official is included (in his schedule)," a ministry official said. "The meeting will be closed-door based on the two sides' consultations."

The planned meeting is drawing attention as it comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries following Japan's toughened restrictions on exports to South Korea of key industrial materials used in semiconductors and displays earlier this month.

The ministry official stressed that Suh's trip was not scheduled to discuss a specific pending issue, declining to comment on who he will be meeting, nor when or where the talks will be held.

A local newspaper reported Suh will be meeting with Kenji Kanasugi, director-general at the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau. The unification ministry declined to confirm the report.

Earlier, ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min said the meeting will focus on discussing denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan's export curbs are widely seen as a protest against a series of South Korean court decisions ordering the seizure of Japanese corporate assets as compensation for Koreans forced to work in factories and mines during World War II.

Japan has protested the rulings, arguing that all reparation issues stemming from its 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula were settled under a 1965 government-to-government accord aimed at normalizing bilateral ties.

South Korea has refused to intercede in the civil litigation, saying it honors the democratic constitutional principle that guarantees the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers.

On Monday, President Moon Jae-in warned Japan will suffer more from the export curbs, vowing not to succumb to the trade pressure. (Yonhap)