(March 23): Japan ended restrictions on exports to South Korea of three key compounds used in the manufacture of semiconductors and displays, in the latest step towards improving long fractious ties between the two US allies.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on Thursday (March 23) the move to officially ease licensing requirements on fluorinated polyimide, hydrogen fluoride and photoresists, adding that the move would take effect the same day.
The restrictions, which threatened to hurt some of South Korea’s biggest companies and had the potential to disrupt global supply chains, were introduced in 2019 at the height of a dispute over whether Japan had sufficiently compensated the victims of its 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.
The measures did little to affect shipments of the specialist materials used in gadgets including Apple Inc iPhones. But they were perceived as a threat to hurt Seoul economically, and helped drive the two US allies further apart.
Resolving the feud has become more urgent for the US and its two powerful partners in Asia, as they attempt to present a more united front against China and North Korea in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has sought to rebuild ties since taking office last year, on Monday announced that he was returning Japan to a list of trusted trading partners. Japan has said it is looking to do the same for its neighbour.
For his part, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday he would invite Yoon to take part in outreach discussions at the summit of the Group of Seven democracies, set to take place in Hiroshima in May. Yoon went to Tokyo earlier this month for the first summit on Japanese soil in more than a decade between the leaders of the two countries.