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Seoul to use ASEAN meetings for diplomacy to reverse Japan's export curbs

Diplomacy 17:57 July 25, 2019

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will use a series of multilateral talks in Thailand next week to step up diplomacy to reverse Japan's recent export control measure against South Korea, a foreign ministry official here said Thursday.

Kang is set to attend the annual ministerial gatherings, involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), set to take place in Bangkok from Thursday to Saturday.

Her attendance at the meetings comes amid diplomatic tensions caused by Japan's July 4 imposition of stricter restrictions on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials vital to the manufacture of semiconductors and displays.

"At the meetings, (Kang) will stress the importance of a free and fair trade environment, and call for Japan to promptly retract its improper export restriction measure on various occasions," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

On Aug. 1, Kang will attend the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting. The following day, she will join the ASEAN Plus Three meeting, which includes South Korea, China and Japan; the East Asia Summit (EAS) session and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). On Aug. 3, she is to attend the South Korea-Mekong foreign ministers' meeting.

South Korea will strive to rally support from these five major meetings by stressing the importance of countries in the region sticking to free trade principles, the key driver of shared prosperity in East Asia, the official said.

Seoul hopes to reflect its position against Japan's export restrictions in chair statements at the meetings, the official said.

Aside from the multilateral talks, Kang is expected to hold bilateral talks with foreign ministers from some participating countries.

The diplomatic spat that started with a dispute over Japan's wartime forced labor has been spilling over into the economic domain due to Tokyo's export curbs.

South Korea has criticized the export restrictions as a political retaliation that undermines the principles of free trade, which Japan has long championed and benefited from. Tokyo has rejected the criticism, accusing Seoul of laxity in its handling of dual-use goods that can be diverted for military use.

The row could escalate further as Tokyo is mulling whether to remove South Korea from its list of 27 trusted partner countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.

This photo, taken July 5, 2019, shows Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaking during a strategy coordination meeting on foreign affairs at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (Yonhap)


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