S Korea, Japan hold talks as diplomatic row worsens

A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin Germany

On Thursday, North Korea claimed it would develop and test unspecified "special armaments" to destroy US F-35 fighter jets if South Korea continues to deploy them.

Japanese trade ministry officials said the goal of Friday's meeting was to explain that the restrictions are a precautionary measure necessitated by South Korea's lax trade controls.

The first working-level talks were held July 12 between Japan and South Korea on last week's implementation of tighter export controls by Tokyo on materials used in manufacturing semiconductors and displays.

South Korea has proposed an worldwide probe into Japan's accusations that it shipped sensitive industrial materials to North Korea, with the presidential office demanding an apology and a withdrawal of Japan's recent export curbs if the claim turns out to be untrue. He met Kim three times a year ago.

Japan last week declared it will beef up screening procedures on three key chemicals shipped to South Korea and is considering removing South Korea from a list of countries deemed to be performing sufficiently on export controls, ensuring materials that can be used for conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction are not being diverted to third parties.

But a Japanese foreign ministry official said on Friday the curbs on exports of the materials were not retaliation in the feud over compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms.

Japanese officials also explained that inappropriate cases had occurred in South Korea's export control that warranted tighter control because of national security concerns.

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The feud may also complicate US efforts to denuclearize the peninsula.

But at a hastily-called press conference after the comment by the South Korean official, an official at the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said such a request was not made in explicit terms.

Some of Japanese politicians recently indicated South Korea having illegally smuggled the materials to the DPRK.

Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for Japanese shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korea, saying such materials can be exported only to trustworthy trading partners.

Experts said there was little hope of either side backing down quickly, with both Moon and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unlikely to offer concessions. "There also should be a thorough investigation on (any) Japanese violation", he said.

Observers have linked the export dispute to the emotionally charged row over Korean forced labor and forced prostitution.

Many Japanese resent being urged to atone for wartime deeds of seven decades ago, while many in South Korea doubt the sincerity of Japan's past apologies.

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