Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Japan, S.Korean Lawmakers Agree To Work Towards Breaking Stalemate, Easing Tensions Amid Strained Ties

Japan, S.Korean Lawmakers Agree To Work Towards Breaking Stalemate,  Easing Tensions Amid Strained Ties

TOKYO - Japanese and South Korean lawmakers on Friday agreed in principle that more dialogue and work in general was necessary for the two countries involved in a bitter trade spat stemming from a dispute over wartime compensation to break the stalemate and ease tensions.
Fukushiro Nukaga, leader of a nonpartisan group of lawmakers here committed to promoting friendly ties between Japan and South Korea, told a meeting with South Korean lawmakers at the Diet building in Tokyo that positive decisions must be made by both camps in order to resolve the conflict.
"Our role is to build a framework of cooperation, not conflict. Now we must make the correct choices that will enable us to break the stalemate and find a path toward resolution," said Nukaga.
Kang Chang-il, his opposite number in South Korea, said that while ties remained strained with the wartime labor dispute impacting the two countries' trade relations, the continuation of dialogue remains paramount.
Bilateral ties are "in a difficult situation, as what was a dispute over history has spread to economic and security areas. In order to resolve the dispute over history, we must continue dialogue," said Kang.
Japan and South Korea have seen bilateral ties sink to their lowest level in recent years following South Korea's top court last year ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to forced laborers during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan, for its part, has claimed the rulings are not in line with international law and run contrary to the foundation of friendly and cooperative relations between the two neighbors since the 1965 normalization of diplomatic ties.
Japan maintains the matter of compensation for wartime labor was "finally and completely" resolved under the pact.
As tensions escalated between both sides, Japan hit back with tighter export controls on some materials used in high-tech products by South Korean firms, including some essential for use in smartphone displays and chips, mainstays of South Korea's tech-forward economy and integral to some key supply chains that flow from Japan and through South Korea onward.
With the diplomatic rift widening between the two neighbors, Japan went on to remove South Korea from its "whitelist" of nations entitled to simplified export control procedures, with the removal of South Korea from the list marking the first time Japan has revoked a countries' trusted trade status.
Seoul had been on the "whitelist" since 2004 and had been guaranteed preferential treatment in terms of importing certain products from Japan.
South Korea retaliated by taking Japan off of its own "whitelist" of trusted trade partners and announced tighter restrictions on certain imports from Japan, including coal ash and some waste recycling materials.
South Korea followed up by announcing its decision to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, with Japan, on exchanging classified military information, as the tit-for-tat dispute escalated.
The GSOMIA pact between both sides, signed in 2016, had enabled the two neighbors to share military information.
As the bilateral dispute continued, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon last month, marking the highest-level talks being held between both countries in more than a year and raising hopes that some progress could be made by sides in resolving the conflict.

Despite the lack of tangible progress made between both sides during these particular talks, however, with a potential meeting between Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York still up in the air, Abe and Lee both agreed in principle that the protracted dispute should not be left unchecked as the two counties are important neighbors. (Xinhua)