is "in the dark" as to why South Korea has downgraded Tokyo's trading
status, its trade minister said on Tuesday, amid an intensifying trade war
between the two neighbors and US allies in Northeast Asia.
South Korea on Monday created a new category of trading status
for Japan, with its Trade Minister Sung Yun-mo saying it was "hard to work
closely with a country that frequently violates the basic rules".
South Korea's list of trade partners has been divided into two
groups: members of the world's top four export control agreements and those who
But Seoul said on Monday it had created a new category for
countries that had signed the four pacts "but operate an export control
system that violates international norms".
Japan is the only country in the new category.
The move left officials in Tokyo bemused. "After watching
the South Korean news conference, we remain completely in the dark as to the
grounds on which it claims that Japan's export control system fails to comply
with (international) principles," tweeted Japanese Trade Minister
Hiroshige Seko on Tuesday.
Monday's move is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures
between the two neighbors.
On July 4, Japan tightened its rules on awarding official export
permits for South Korea, meaning that screening applications could take up to
Tokyo has also announced it will remove Seoul from a list of
favored export partners from Aug 28.
South Korea quickly fired back, rescinding Japan's favored
export partner status and saying it would also review a military information
The dispute has raised concerns over potential implications for
their security cooperation and the possible impact on global supply chains.
Despite mutual criticism over policies linked to wartime
history, both Japan and South Korea insist these measures have been introduced
on national security grounds.
Seoul is the fifth-largest importer of Japanese goods, while
petroleum products, iron and steel products, and electrical machinery including
semiconductors are the major South Korean exports to Japan, according to
finance ministry trade data.
"Although the delisting does not come as a surprise, it
nevertheless illustrates that the bilateral tensions between Japan and South
Korea show no sign of abating," said Tobias Harris, an expert at Teneo
consultants, in a note on Tuesday.