Relations between U.S. allies South Korea and Japan deteriorated on Tuesday with South Korea questioning Japan's commitment to U.N. sanctions against North Korea, while a South Korean legal case looked set to aggravate old wartime animosity.
Relations between the neighbors have long been plagued by memories of Japans 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula. In recent months, the question of compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers has been a particular source of friction.
Ties between Washingtons two biggest Asian allies took a sharp turn for the worse this month when Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea. The curbs threaten global supplies of memory chips and smartphones.
Japan has denied that the dispute over compensation for laborers is behind the export curbs, even though a Japanese government minister cited broken trust with South Korea over the labour dispute in announcing the export restrictions.
Instead, Japan has cited "inadequate management" of sensitive items exported to South Korea.
Japanese media reported that hydrogen fluoride, one of the three materials covered by the Japanese curbs that can also be used in chemical weapons, had been shipped to North Korea after being exported to South Korea.
South Korea denied that with President Moon Jae-in calling the reported accusation a "grave challenge". The Japanese government has said it did not make any accusation about materials going to North Korea.
Nevertheless, South Korea hit back on Tuesday with the chief of its National Intelligence Service (NIS) telling a parliament committee on intelligence that Japan was very "lukewarm and passive" in terms of implementing U.N. sanctions.
The intelligence chief, Suh Hoon, told legislators Japan had recently allowed the entry of vessels suspected of making illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil or coal products to North Korean ships in violations of U.N. sanctions, said Lee Eun-jae, one of the lawmakers briefed by the agency said.
A spokesman for the NIS confirmed that Suh had briefed the legislators but declined to give details.
A Japanese government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
South Korea's industry minister called on Japan to accept an independent investigation into the export control system, accusing Japan of failing to provide evidence to back up its accusation ofRead More