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S. Korea, Japan end marathon talks with no deal

All News 09:58 March 11, 2020

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Wednesday it failed to make any significant progress in its marathon overnight talks with Japan on ending their nine-month trade dispute.

The 16-hour talks that ended early Wednesday morning came amid fresh tensions between the neighbors after they virtually closed their borders against each other over the global outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The travel restriction forced Lee Ho-hyeon, South Korea's director general for international trade policy, to hold a video conference with his Japanese counterpart, Yoichi Iida.

South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said the two sides exchanged information and opinion on export and information control policies.

"The two countries gave positive feedback on each others' plan to bolster export control capabilities in terms of rules and policies," the ministry said in a statement, without providing further details.

This photo provided by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on March 10, 2020, shows South Korean trade officials in Seoul holding a video conference with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Last week, South Korea renewed its calls on Japan to take corresponding action and return its trade regulations to the levels before July last year, saying it has made more efforts to bolster its export controls to soothe Tokyo.

South Korea said it has increased the number of staff at the Korean Security Agency of Trade and Industry by 25 percent to better manage its export control system and restructured related organizations.

Seoul and Tokyo plan to hold another meeting in the near future in Seoul and agreed to boost cooperation on export control policy, according to the ministry.

Japan declared a trade war against its Asian neighbor in July last year by imposing restrictions on exports to Seoul of three key industrial materials critical for South Korea's chip and display industries, namely photoresist, etching gas and fluorinated polyimide.

Japan later removed South Korea from its list of trusted partners, claiming that Seoul did not effectively control the trade of sensitive materials that can be diverted for military use. Tokyo did not provide grounds to back up its allegations, however.

Seoul believes Tokyo's export curbs were politically motivated over 2018 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.

In a tit-for-tat move, South Korea took Tokyo off its list of trusted trade partners and sought mediation at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

To find a breakthrough, the two countries each made some goodwill gestures starting in November last year, with South Korea dropping its WTO lawsuit and putting off the termination of the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan.

Tokyo partially lifted the curbs on exports to South Korea of photoresist ahead of their summit in December. Despite the efforts, the two failed to reach agreement last year.

On Monday, Japan adopted a temporary 14-day self-quarantine period for people flying in from South Korea and China and asked them to refrain from using public transport. Tokyo also decided to suspend its visa-waiver program for South Korean nationals.

In response, Seoul suspended its own visa-free entry program for Japanese visitors and invalidated previously issued visas, saying Tokyo's move showed a "lack of understanding" over South Korea's "advanced, outstanding" quarantine system.

This photo provided by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on March 10, 2020, shows South Korean trade officials in Seoul holding a video conference with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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