Seoul called on Friday for an worldwide investigation of what it said were accusations by Japanese officials that it had passed some high-tech materials imported from Japan on to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions.
It worsened last week when Japan said it would tighten curbs on exports of three materials crucial for advanced consumer electronics because trust with South Korea had been broken over the forced labour dispute.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that its minister, Kang Kyung-wha, discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who Seoul said expressed an "understanding" of the South Korean position and agreed to facilitate communication through diplomatic channels between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
South Korean National Security Office Deputy Director Kim You-geun said that Seoul has fully enforced United Nations sanctions on North Korea, as well as worldwide export control regimes on sensitive materials and dual-use technology.
Nuclear-armed Pyongyang has criticised Seoul for not pursuing inter-Korean economic projects as discussed in summit meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in a year ago.More news: Magnitude-4.6 Earthquake Rattles Seattle Area Awake
Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korea, saying they can be exported only to trustworthy trading partners.
The South Korean government didn't immediately respond to the North's statement.
"To halt unnecessary disputes and to determine factual basis of the Japanese government's claims, we suggest a panel of UN Security Council experts or an appropriate global organization to conduct a fair investigation into any cases of four major export control violations by South Korea and Japan", Kim said.
However, if it concluded that South Korea was not at fault, Japan "not only must apologize to our government, but will have to immediately withdraw its retaliatory export restrictions", he added.
The Japanese officials also reiterated that they won't negotiate over the trade curbs and said, without specifying, that there have been "inappropriate" cases regarding Japanese exports to South Korea.More news: Oil prices rise amid Gulf of Mexico storm, Middle East tensions
The meeting started in an icy atmosphere, with officials skipping handshakes and staring at each other across the table in silence for several minutes amid ceaseless clicks of camera shutters. Kim Hee-sang, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, also held meetings with State Department officials in Washington.
If a probe found any wrongdoing by Seoul, it would apologize and take corrective measures immediately, he said.
South Korea plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
South Korean leader Moon Jae-in was left on the sidelines of a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump at the inter-Korean border in June, and there have been few signs that relations have improved.
That's according to Lee Ho-hyeon, a South Korean trade ministry official who briefed reporters on Friday after export officials from the two countries met in Tokyo for almost six hours over the bitter trade dispute.More news: Trump unloads on Paul Ryan after 'American Carnage' book excerpts
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