NATIONAL

South Korea, Japan find no changes in stances over history, trade row

By Park Han-na
  • Published : Aug 29, 2019 - 16:34
  • Updated : Aug 29, 2019 - 18:19

Senior officials from the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries were not able to make progress during their talks in Seoul on Thursday, as they kept their stances unchanged after the two countries delivered blows to each other in the form of trade and military measures over Tokyo’s wartime forced labor.

Kim Jung-han, Foreign Ministry director-general for Asian and Pacific affairs, met with his Japanese counterpart Kenji Kanasugi following Tokyo’s official downgrading of Seoul from its list of preferred trading partners Wednesday.

“No substantial progress was made with the wide gap remaining (during the meeting),” a Foreign Ministry official told reporters.



Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, enters the foreign ministry's building in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)

Kim pointed out the injustice of removing South Korea from Japan’s whitelist and called for immediate withdrawal of the action.

He also urged Japan to resume talks between trade authorities of the two countries in a swift, serious and unconditional manner to resolve the trade restriction issue. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is known to have been reluctant to engage in dialogue.

“The two sides have differences in their basic positions. Japan wants Korea to rectify the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling because it believes (the decision) violates international law, but we don’t think it breaches the law,” the official said.

Tokyo’s economic restrictions are seen as a warning to show that it could exert pressure against Seoul over last year’s Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate Korean victims of forced labor.

Japan expected the Korean government to intervene in the judgment, as it holds that all reparation issues stemming from its colonial rule were settled under the 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.

Kanasugi meanwhile expressed regret over Seoul’s decision to pull out of a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan.

During their meeting that lasted about 70 minutes, Kanasugi showed Japan’s hope for Seoul to reconsider the decision to scrap the bilateral accord, but Kim did not hint at any reassessment.

The most recent meeting of diplomats of the two countries took place on the sidelines of trilateral talks between foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan in Beijing on Aug. 21, where Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese counterpart Taro Kono agreed on the need for dialogue but failed to narrow their differences in views on their trade row that sparked last month.

Tensions between the two countries flared on July 4 when Japan implemented restrictions on exports to Korea of core materials needed for semiconductors and displays -- targeting Seoul’s mainstay industrial sector heavily reliant on the import of materials from Tokyo.

While Japan cited “a loss of trust” and “national security concerns” as reasons for the trade curbs, Tokyo has not produced evidence to back the claim.

Firing back at the logic of Japan’s arguments, Seoul said there is no justification for the exchange of sensitive information under the General Security of Military Information Agreement with such damaged mutual trust.

The military intelligence sharing pact expires Nov. 23, giving the two countries about three months to reconsider the decision.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry plans to seek support from the international community by convincing them of the unfairness of Japan’s trade curbs during the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled to be held Sept. 24-30 in New York.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)