Japan’s government voted on Friday to remove South Korea from a so-called white list of favored export partners, defying warnings from Seoul that the move would have “grave consequences” for security ties between the US allies.
South Korea is now the first country ever to be dropped from Tokyo’s list of nations granted minimal constraints on exports of products that could be diverted to military use.
“The government at a cabinet meeting today approved a revision to the export control law… South Korea, the only Asian nation on the list, will be removed,” Japan’s Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters.
The decision comes despite calls from Washington for the two US allies to set aside their differences and warnings from South Korea that it would review security cooperation with Japan if the de-listing went ahead.
Seoul said Friday it would respond “sternly” to the “unfair” decision.
The move, expected to take effect on August 28, means hundreds of products listed as sensitive will be subject to tighter export controls, though experts said the effect would be more symbolic than economic.
It “will only have a limited impact on the South Korean economy,” said Hajime Yoshimoto, senior economist at Nomura Securities, in part because Japanese exporters can obtain special permission to ship to non-white-list countries with simplified procedures.
Many major Japanese exporters already have that special permission, according to the trade ministry.
Tokyo had already tightened the rules last month on exports of three products key to South Korea’s chip and smartphone industries, raising fears for global supply in the sectors.