Kim You-geun, deputy chief of South Korea's presidential national security office, speaks during a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, July 12, 2019. (LEE YUN-CHUNG / NEWSIS VIA AP)
SEOUL — The Republic of Korea (ROK) said Friday it wants an investigation by the United Nations or another international body as it continues to reject Japanese claims that Seoul could not be trusted to faithfully implement sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Kim You-geun, deputy chief of the ROK's presidential national security office, said the ROK has been thoroughly implementing UN sanctions against the DPRK over its nuclear weapons program. He demanded that Japan provide evidence for claims made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his conservative aides that there may have been illegal transfers of sensitive materials from the ROK to the DPRK.
The Seoul government has proposed Japan accept an inquiry by the UN or another international body over the export controls of both countries to end "needless arguments" and to clearly prove whether the Japanese claims are true or not
Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for Japanese shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to the ROK, saying such materials can be exported only to trustworthy trading partners. The move, which could potentially hurt ROK technology companies that manufacture semiconductors and display screens used in TVs and smartphones, has triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute between the countries that further soured relations long troubled over Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea before the end of World War II.
Kim said the Seoul government proposes Japan accept an inquiry by the UN or another international body over the export controls of both countries to end "needless arguments" and to clearly prove whether the Japanese claims are true or not.
He said the ROK has been imposing stringent export controls on arms and sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes as a signatory of major international pacts that govern such transactions.
"If the result of the investigation reveals that our government did something wrong, our government will apologize for it and immediately apply measures to correct it," said Kim, reading a prepared statement on live TV.
"If the result shows that our government has done nothing wrong, the Japanese government should not only apologize but also immediately withdraw the exports restrictions that have the characteristics of a (political) retaliation. There also should be a thorough investigation on (any) Japanese violation," he said.
The ROK, an export-dependent economy that is the world's biggest supplier of computer chips and displays, sees the Japanese trade curbs as retaliation for the ROK court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate aging ROK plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II.
It plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization and has denied the Japanese allegations that it allowed sensitive materials to reach the DPRK. The Foreign Ministry in Seoul summoned a Japanese embassy official on Monday to protest Abe's comments that questioned the credibility of Seoul's sanctions implementation.
The US side has showed a good understanding about (the issue) and expressed a desire to provide active support to resolve the problem as South Korea, the United States and Japan should work together and cooperate in the Asia-Pacific
Kim Hyun-chong, ROK presidential official
The ROK's trade minister on Tuesday said an "emergency inspection" of companies that process and export the chemicals imported from Japan found no sign of illegal transactions allowing them to reach the DPRK or any other country affected by United Nations sanctions.
Meanwhile in Tokyo, export officials from both sides sat down together on Friday for the first time since the crisis erupted.
The meeting started in an icy atmosphere, with officials skipping handshakes and staring at each other across the table in silence for several minutes amid ceaseless clicks of camera shutters. The officials made no comments immediately.
The statement from Seoul's presidential Blue House came while Kim Hyun-chong, another ROK presidential official, was in Washington for meetings with officials from the White House and Congress as Seoul sought US help to end its diplomatic row with Japan. Kim Hee-sang, a ROK Foreign Ministry official, also held meetings with State Department officials in Washington.
"The US side has showed a good understanding about (the issue) and expressed a desire to provide active support to resolve the problem as South Korea, the United States and Japan should work together and cooperate in the Asia-Pacific," Kim Hyun-chong told ROK reporters after a meeting with US congressional officials.
The ROK is also referred to as South Korea.
The ROK's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that its minister, Kang Kyung-wha, discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who Seoul said expressed an "understanding" of the ROK position and agreed to facilitate communication through diplomatic channels between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
HONG KONG NEWS