World, Americas, Asia - Pacific

US signals to mediate S.Korea-Japan trade dispute

Trump’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs official arrives in the region to ease tensions between the two key allies

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 17.07.2019
US signals to mediate S.Korea-Japan trade dispute


A top U.S. diplomat Wednesday said that Washington will do “what it can” to resolve trade war between its two close allies -- South Kora and Japan. 

"The U.S. places a great priority on strengthening relations between our country and our two close allies between the RoK and Japan. The truth is no significant issue can be resolved without cooperation between our two allies," David Stilwell, who is U.S. President Donald Trump’s top official on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told media in Seoul.

RoK stands for South Korea's official name -- Republic of Korea.

Stilwell is on three-day visit to South Korea where he held detailed discussions with top South Korean officials. He discussed Japan’s restrictions on exports to Seoul, Korean news Yonhap reported.

On July 4, Japan had directed slowing down exports of three key industrial materials, used in semiconductors and displays to South Korea. The material is believed critical to Seoul’s booming smart phone and TV industry.

"So fundamentally, RoK and Japan must resolve this sensitive matter and we hope that resolution happens soon. The U.S. as close friends and allies to both will do what it can to support their efforts to resolve [the situation]," Stilwell added.

After the meeting, a South Korean official saying, that the U.S. representative was apprised of the seriousness of the situation. “Stilwell sufficiently understood the seriousness of the issue,” said Kim Hyun-chong, deputy director of the South Korean presidential National Security Office.

Stilwell, a former Air Force official, visited Japan before coming to South Korea.

Japan’s unilateral trade restrictions move is seen as retaliation against a South Korean court ruling, ordering Japanese firms operating in the country to pay compensation to wartime victims.

Tokyo refused to oblige. It, however, proposed setting up a third-country arbitration panel, for mediation, which Seoul rejected on Tuesday. Instead, Seoul proposed to set up a fund, to be paid by businesses from both countries to compensate the victims. Tokyo did not agree to the proposal.

Seoul has sought intervention of World Trade Organization (WTO), seeking actions against Japan, for blocking critical exports.

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