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Japan to start talks with S. Korea over WTO complaint

Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will accept South Korea's request to launch bilateral consultations after Seoul filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization last week over Tokyo's tightening of export controls, trade minister Isshu Sugawara said Friday.

"There is no change in our position that (Japan's trade measure) is in line with WTO rules. We will fully explain that," Sugawara told a news conference.

In July, Japan imposed tougher rules on three key materials required by South Korean companies to produce semiconductors and display panels, saying trust between the countries had been undermined.

Japan is expected to claim during the consultations that South Korea's move on Sept. 11 to take the case to the WTO was unjust.

Seoul has alleged that Tokyo's tightening of export controls was in retaliation for South Korean Supreme Court rulings last year ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation over wartime labor.

South Korea has called for dialogue with Japan in line with the WTO dispute resolution process. If the matter cannot be resolved in bilateral consultations, Seoul will ask the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel.

Japan-South Korea ties have deteriorated in recent years due to disputes over wartime labor and trade policy.

In addition to reviewing the export controls, Japan removed South Korea on Aug. 28 from its "white list" of trusted trade partners that enjoy minimum trade restrictions on goods such as electronic components that can be diverted for military use.

In response, Seoul deleted Tokyo from its equivalent list on Wednesday.

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