*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, March 17, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Japan-ROK Economic Security Consultation / ROK Export Control
Q: I have two questions. The first is about the Japan-ROK summit meeting. At the press conference following the meeting, Prime Minister Kishida stated that he will set up a new Japan-ROK Economic Security Consultation. What specific measures will be taken in the future? Please tell us your thoughts on possible cooperation between Japan and the ROK, particularly in the field of semiconductors.
The second question is about export control between Japan and the ROK. There was an announcement yesterday that there will be a revision of the operation of export controls. Please tell us your thoughts on this, and if you have any schedule for a revision of the country categories.
Japan-ROK Economic Security Consultation
A: To answer the first question, I understand that Prime Minister Kishida and President Yoon announced the launch of a consultation on economic security at a joint press conference following yesterday's Japan-ROK summit meeting.
I understand that discussions will be held in the future on specifically what kind of cooperation there will be.
Regarding semiconductors which you mentioned, it is important to promote cooperation with like-minded countries, and I understand that cooperation with the United States and Europe has already begun to produce results. We will continue to discuss how we can cooperate with the ROK and in what areas.
ROK Export Control
To answer your second question on export controls, although the recent announcement has been reported by various media, I would like to reiterate that the export control measures have not been lifted.
Also, we have not decided to treat the ROK as a Group A or so-called white-list country, which was its status before July 2019.
There have been concerns about the operation and management system for hydrogen fluoride, fluorinated polyimide, and resist. On this issue, a dialog was held on March 6 in response to ROK's announcement of the suspension of the WTO dispute settlement procedure. It was an intensive, three-day dialog. We have taken a considerable amount of time to carefully examine the organization and operations of the ROK’s export control authorities, as well as the implementation of a regulatory framework.
We have been granting individual licenses for these three items, each license having its usage and destination confirmed. Based on the accumulation of those results, we carefully examined the system and operation on the ROK's side.
As a result, we have decided to revise the export control operations for the three items, given the confirmation that the ROK has improved its initiative and effectiveness, and that the ROK has announced that it will withdraw its complaint to the WTO concerning Japan's export controls.
However, as I said before, nothing has been decided at this stage as to whether the ROK will be treated as a white-list country. Japan has clarified the issues that the ROK's side should address, and its categorization depends on the ROK's further efforts. We will further confirm the effectiveness of the ROK's export control system and operations for a wide range of items other than the three in question through future policy dialogs, including the operational status of catch-all regulations on conventional weapons. In the meantime, we will carefully assess the ROK's stance moving forward.
We have taken a step forward toward improving our relations, and it is extremely important to make future-oriented efforts to develop economic cooperation and relations between Japan and the ROK in a sound manner, given the security in East Asia, especially related to our response to the situations with North Korea including the abduction issue. Before discussing those cooperative relations, we will call on the ROK's side to take a strict approach to issues that need to be addressed.
Japan-ROK Economic Cooperation
Q: The Keidanren and the Federation of Korean Industries had a business roundtable today, with the chairman of Samsung in attendance, which is an important business partner for Japanese companies. Please give us your thoughts on what impact the improvement in Japan-ROK relations will have on the Japanese semiconductor industry.
A: With the Japan-ROK summit meeting held, we have begun improving relations and looking toward the future, and I personally hope that our relations will improve. In particular, regarding the North Korea issue I mentioned before, a resident of my local neighborhood, Ms. Arimoto Keiko, is a Japanese abductee, so we recognize the need for cooperation when trying to solve the abduction issue.
The business communities in the two countries are in a competitive relationship with each other, but I believe that they are seeking areas where they can cooperate toward the future. I will continue to call on the ROK's side to take a strict approach regarding various concerns related to export controls, so that we can make progress.
ROK Export Control
Q: Regarding your remarks on the ROK export control measures, at yesterday's joint press conference, the ROK referred to Japan's intention to lift the restrictions. Please tell us whether there are any discrepancies in understanding. Also, please tell us if you plan to do anything if that is the case.
A: We did not use the word "lift." Regardless of the meaning of the expression "lift", we revised the export control operation regarding the three items yesterday. We announced yesterday that we had revised the operation of the system from that of individual licenses to a general bulk export license. To be precise, it would be correct to say that we revised export controls regarding the three items.
As I said before, we have not yet decided whether to make the ROK a white-list country. It may seem as if the measures will be lifted or there will be a complete change to the current system, but that is not the case. I would like to accurately convey that we have revised the operation regarding the three items.
Q: The ROK's side said that it has been lifted, but do you mean that Japan is clarifying the case in the way you mentioned?
A: Yes. As I said before, the operation regarding the three items has been revised. As far as I am aware, the Japanese side, at least I and METI, have not used the word "lifted".