Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Saturday that Japan's recent export restrictions, including its removal of South Korea from a list of trusted trade partners, could pose a "serious threat" to regional prosperity.
Kang made the remarks during a meeting with her counterparts from five countries around the Mekong River -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam -- on the last day of her four-day trip to Bangkok for multilateral talks involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"While pointing out the unreasonable nature of Japan's unilateral, arbitrary export control measure against our country, including the exclusion from the whitelist, Minister Kang voiced serious concerns," her ministry said in a press release.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
"(She) stressed that such measures could become a serious threat to prosperity in the region," it added.
The ministry also pointed out that all sides voiced their opposition to any measure that would undermine free trade in any context and put a top priority on the values of free trade.
In a widely expected step, Tokyo's Cabinet approved plans to drop South Korea from a whitelist of 27 countries given preferential treatment in purchasing Japanese dual-use goods that can be diverted for military use.
The latest move came less than a month after Japan imposed tighter restrictions on exports to South Korea of three key high-tech materials vital to the production of semiconductors and displays.
Seoul casts the export restrictions as a political retaliation for last year's Supreme Court rulings against Japanese firms over wartime forced labor.
During the meeting with the five countries, Kang stressed the importance of the Mekong region, which has recently emerged at a crucial economic player in the world based on its rich resources, young population and high growth potential.
Kang also expressed her expectation for the countries' continued support for Seoul's efforts for denuclearization and a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Before the talks with the Mekong countries, Kang held a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai.
At the meeting, she also stressed that Japan's export control measures could undermine shared prosperity in the region.
Pramudwinai shared the view that it is important to respect the free, transparent trade order and pursue common prosperity, the ministry said.
Upon her arrival at Incheon International Airport after wrapping up her visit to Bangkok, Kang told reporters that South Korea would continue to make efforts for talks with Japan to address the matters of wartime forced labor and the trade dispute.
"There are official and non-official schedules" for talks withJapan, Kang said.
South Korea has hinted that it could review whether to renew the bilateral military intelligence-sharing deal with Japan, named the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
Asked about the US reaction to Seoul's potential review of the GSOMIA during talks in Bangkok, Kang replied that there was no specific reaction from the US side. (Yonhap)