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(LEAD) S. Korea's chief negotiator leaves for Geneva for talks with Japan

All News 10:54 November 18, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by chief negotiator and background in paras 4, 7-8, 10, 12-14; ADDS photo)
By Kim Kwang-tae

SEJONG, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's chief negotiator left for Geneva on Monday for a second round of talks with Japan at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ongoing trade row over Tokyo's export restrictions.

Chung Hae-kwan, director-general of multilateral and legal affairs at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, is set to meet with his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Kuroda in the Swiss city on Tuesday.

The one-day talks are part of a dispute settlement process under rules of the WTO.

Chung said South Korea could push for the establishment of a panel at the WTO Dispute Settlement Body to look further into the case if the two sides fail to find common ground.

Last month, the two failed to reach an agreement in their first talks in Geneva in connection with Seoul's complaint with the global trade body over Tokyo's export curbs.

The talks came days after Japan approved the first shipment of liquid hydrogen fluoride to South Korea in an apparent attempt to make its case that its restrictions do not run counter to international trade norms under the World Trade Organization.

Chung said he does not think the Japanese approval has any big impact on the talks, noting the purpose of South Korea's complaint is to ensure that Japan can retract its export curbs.

"The problem is the restrictions themselves," Chung told reporters ahead of his departure at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. He said one or two Japanese approval of exports is not the main point of the WTO dispute.

Chung Hae-kwan, director-general of multilateral and legal affairs at South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Nov. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

In July, Tokyo imposed tighter regulations on exports to Seoul of three materials -- resist, etching gas and fluorinated polyimide -- that are critical for the production of semiconductors and flexible displays. Japan later removed South Korea from its list of trusted trading partners.

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

South Korea views the Japanese moves as 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.

Chung also said the one-day talks have nothing to do with the bilateral intelligence-sharing pact.

On Sunday, South Korea and Japan failed to make progress over the fate of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) that is set to expire Saturday.

Japan and the United States want to maintain the pact, but South Korea has said the pact only can be extended if Tokyo retracts its export curbs on Seoul.


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