South Korea had maintained a relatively composed attitude since Japan strengthened regulations on exports of three high-tech chemicals -- photoresists, fluorine polyimide and etching gas -- which are used in semiconductors and smartphone production.
In a TV debate, Abe raised suspicions that South Korea may not abide by sanctions on North Korea. Koichi Hagiuda, the executive acting secretary-general of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has said that security reasons were behind export restrictions, citing "concerns" that high-tech materials could end up in North Korea and be used for military purposes.
Based on an emergency survey of fluorine polyimide importers, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon said Tuesday in parliament that Abe has made "dangerous remarks that could shake the security order we have long maintained."
Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo said that Abe has made "totally groundless claims." "I hope Japan will stop making groundless claims immediately," the minister said, adding Seoul did not find any evidence that high-tech materials from Japan have been diverted to North Korea,
The South's foreign ministry said Seoul has put Japan's economic retaliation on the urgent agenda at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.
South Korean officials apparently got tough after President Moon warned on Monday that the government would take a "necessary" response if South Korean companies suffer "actual damage." "A vicious cycle of responses and recriminations is not desirable to both countries," Moon said, urging Japan to stop restricting "reciprocal private business transactions for political purposes."
"What's important above all in an unprecedented emergency situation is close communication and cooperation between the government and the business community," Moon said, calling for a diplomatic solution.
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