Why US cannot be a bystander in Japan-South Korea row

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South Korea and Japan, the two closest allies of the United States, are digging in their heels in an unprecedented standoff. Tension has been mounting in a series of tit-for-tat moves since the Korean Supreme Court ruled against Japanese companies in a decision on World War II forced labour on Oct 30 last year.

With diplomatic negotiations stalled, Japan imposed export regulations on July 1 on three key items used by Korean manufacturers in the production of semi-conductors. Pressing on, on Aug 2, Tokyo delisted South Korea from the so-called "whitelist", opening the door for broader export regulation in many sectors. Seoul responded in kind by filing a World Trade Organisation (WTO) complaint on Sept 11, and delisting Japan from its whitelist one week later. On Aug 22, Seoul decided to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan, effective Nov 22.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2019, with the headline Why US cannot be a bystander in Japan-South Korea row. Subscribe