Seoul steps up effort to get US' help in row with Tokyo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha meeting in Seoul last month. Ms Kang told Mr Pompeo on Wednesday that Japan's curbs on exports to South Korea could also disrupt the global supply chain and hurt US f
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha meeting in Seoul last month. Ms Kang told Mr Pompeo on Wednesday that Japan's curbs on exports to South Korea could also disrupt the global supply chain and hurt US firms.PHOTO: REUTERS

However, analysts say Washington unlikely to play mediator in Asian neighbours' dispute

SEOUL • South Korea's Foreign Minister has told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Japan's export curbs against Seoul are "undesirable", the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, as a trade row between the East Asian neighbours grows.

South Korea's ruling party also announced yesterday that up to about 300 billion won (S$350 million) would be included in a supplementary budget Bill to cope with Japan's export curbs - to help speed localisation of materials supplies for chips and display panels.

The ruling Democratic Party said about a third of the proposed budget would go to help South Korean materials and equipment makers commercialise their products.

Japan tightened curbs last week on exports of three materials crucial for smartphone displays and chips, saying trust with South Korea had been broken in a dispute with Seoul over South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms during World War II.

The restrictions will affect companies such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which supply chips to companies like Apple.

South Korea and Japan clashed at the World Trade Organisation this week and Seoul is stepping up diplomatic overtures to their mutual ally, the United States, to step in.

However, experts said Washington is unlikely to become a mediator in the dispute.

 
 
 

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha had told Mr Pompeo in a phone call on Wednesday that Japan's trade restrictions may not only cause damage to her country's companies but could also disrupt the global supply chain and hurt US firms.

Ms Kang also said the situation is "undesirable in terms of friendly relations between South Korea and Japan and trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan".

Seoul hoped Tokyo would withdraw the curbs and that the situation would not deteriorate further, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Mr Pompeo said he understood and agreed to cooperate and strengthen communication between the three sides, the statement added.

Mr Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of South Korea's National Security Office, arrived in Washington on Wednesday and told reporters he was there to meet officials from the White House and Congress to discuss issues that included Japan's export curbs.

A former Japanese ambassador to the US, Mr Ichiro Fujisaki, told Reuters: "I don't think we need the United States to mediate, just like Japan would not mediate US-Mexico ties or US-Canada relations."

"This is an issue to be solved between Japan and South Korea," Mr Fujisaki added.

New US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell is visiting Asia until July 21, including stops in Japan and South Korea, to work on a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region, the State Department said. It did not say whether the Japan-South Korea dispute would be discussed.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Seoul steps up effort to get US' help in row with Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe