The South Korean government would be “glad” to have the UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions committee investigate recent claims by Japan that it has violated sanctions against North Korea, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
The comments, made by a high-level government official at an off-the-record briefing, come in response to recent allegations by Tokyo that Seoul breached sanctions by transferring banned materials to the DPRK amid a growing trade spat between the two countries.
Japan earlier in the month tightened restrictions on exports of key materials in manufacturing semiconductors and display devices, in a move intended as retaliation against a South Korean Supreme Court decision on compensation for wartime forced laborers.
In a meeting with a group of journalists, the official condemned that decision, saying Tokyo had “initially cited breach of trust as basis of its actions, and then subsequently claimed illegal export to North Korea as ground for restricting exports without presenting any clear evidence.”
“But we have an extremely tight export regime control, which is probably even more restrictive than the Japanese version.”
The Japanese government in recent weeks has claimed that high-purity hydrogen fluoride (or etching gas) could have been transferred to North Korea after being exported to South Korea.
Seoul will take the accusations to the UN’s sanctions committee to see “whether or not we (South Korea) are in violation, or whether or not Japan is in violation.”
South Korea would be happy to bring the case to the UNSC sanctions committee, the official said, stressing that the government “has been strictly adhering to its obligations.”
“We will be more than glad to have UN sanctions committee scrutinize… all the violations, including Japan’s, to see which country has tighter export controls,” they said.
“And if it turns out that we do have, that we are in full compliance with these export control regimes vis-a-vis North Korea, I guess there is no ground for maintaining these measures regarding those products or regarding the white list.”
Asked by NK News to elaborate on the official’s comments following the off-record meeting, an official from the Blue House declined to offer further comment.
South Korea belongs to four international export control regimes: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group, the government official explained.
“Such claims are simply groundless,” the official said.
Monday saw ROK President Moon Jae-in condemn Japan for changing its wording to imply that last month’s export restrictions were due to concerns about international sanctions against North Korea.
Amid a growing trade dispute, Moon said Japan was using sanctions violations as a pretext after failing to gain international support for its attempt to connect trade issues to the Supreme Court ruling regarding the victims of forced labor.
“This constitutes a grave challenge to the South Korean Government as it has been not only implementing the four main multilateral export control regimes in an exemplary manner but also complying with United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Moon said at a meeting with senior officials.
Japan’s measures also posed a challenge to his government’s “all-out efforts for the advancement of inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula within the framework of sanctions,” he added.
Seoul and Tokyo “no longer need to engage in wasteful disputes about this,” Moon continued, stressing that the two countries “should be able to clear away any suspicions by jointly commissioning an investigation by an international organization and accepting the results.”
The South Korean President also said on Monday that the government had proposed proceeding with an international investigation.
Several other South Korean officials have hit out against the recent allegations by Japan, with Minister of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) Sung Yun-mo earlier in the month urging Tokyo to “immediately stop groundless claims.”
“No evidence has been found” that hydrogen fluoride imported from Japan was transferred to countries subject to UN sanctions, he said, following an “emergency survey” of South Korean companies and an investigation of the overall flow of imports, processing, supplies, and exports.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: UN photo
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