Japan lifts curbs on export of key chip material to South Korea

A cyclist riding past containers at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, on May 22, 2019.
A cyclist riding past containers at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, on May 22, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan has lifted curbs on the export of a key microchip material to South Korea, news reports said Saturday (Dec 21), days before the leaders of both countries meet in their first formal talks for more than a year.

The ministry of economy, trade and industry on Friday removed photoresists - used to coat semiconductor circuit boards - from Tokyo's export restrictions against Seoul, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other reports said.

Japan tightened export controls on three materials essential to key products of South Korean tech companies such as Samsung in July after a series of South Korean court rulings ordered Japanese firms to compensate war-time forced labour victims.

The move infuriated Tokyo, which insists the matter was settled in a 1965 treaty normalising diplomatic relations between the two countries, which included significant reparations.

Tokyo's export controls led to Seoul threatening to withdraw from a key military intelligence-sharing pact, alarming the United States who said that would benefit North Korea and China.

South Korea later reversed course and agreed to extend the pact "conditionally".

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is due to meet South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at a summit in China next week.