South Korea-Japan row rages on, this time over export details
Nikkei -- Jul 12
Seoul has pointed to its interceptions of illegally exported sensitive materials to discredit Japan's claim that South Korea lacks a proper monitoring regime, prompting an immediate rebuttal from Tokyo, as bilateral relations appear to plumb another low.

Tokyo's export curbs on semiconductor materials, implemented last week, cited a breach of trust by South Korea and "improper" incidents regarding materials it shipped to the South.

Japan's move is widely seen as retaliation for South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate those forced to work for them in World War II.

In response, Seoul brought up its record on crackdowns to insist that Japan's argument has no basis.

There were 156 cases from 2015 to this March of sensitive materials illegally shipped from South Korea to Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and elsewhere, according to South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Fourteen cases were caught in 2015 and 22 in 2016. The number more than doubled to 48 in 2017, the year Moon took office.

Etching gas, one of materials targeted by Japan's export curbs, was illegally shipped to Vietnam in December 2017 and the United Arab Emirates this January. In addition to semiconductors, etching gas can also be used in the production of nuclear and chemical weapons, including sarin gas.

But Japan remains unconvinced. "Just because South Korea caught some cases doesn't mean it's doing enough," a Japanese government source said. Tokyo continues to question whether Seoul has implemented appropriate screening and other measures to prevent illegal shipments.

South Korea argues that the shipments were made by a handful of domestic companies and do not involve Japan-made etching gas. High-grade etching gas imported from Japan cannot be used for sarin production, which involves lower-grade materials, it says.

Seoul views the recent surge in busts as a sign of a successful crackdown, backed by increased training of police and maritime authorities, and rejects Tokyo's charge of lax controls.

News source: Nikkei
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