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South Korea Asks US to Mediate Trade Spat with Japan

South Korean merchants step on boxes bearing logos of Japanese products during a rally to declare a boycott of Japanese goods in Seoul, South Korea, July 5, 2019.

Updated, July 11, 2019, 12:43 a.m.

South Korea is requesting the United States mediate in a bitter diplomatic row with Japan over Tokyo’s moves to tighten controls on high-tech exports to South Korea.

South Korea said Thursday its Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by phone and conveyed Seoul’s view that Japan’s “undesirable” trade curbs could disrupt global supply chains and hurt trilateral cooperation among the countries.

The ministry says Pompeo expressed an “understanding” of South Korea’s position and agreed to help facilitate communication through diplomatic channels among Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of South Korea’s presidential National Security Office, arrived in Washington on Wednesday and told reporters he would discuss the trade spat with Japan with U.S. officials.

Japan tightened curbs last week on exports of three materials crucial for smartphone displays and chips, saying trust with South Korea had been broken over a dispute with Seoul over South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms during World War II

The restrictions will affect companies such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and SK Hynix Inc., which supply chips to companies such as Apple Inc., and South Korea is stepping up diplomatic overtures to their mutual ally the United States to step in.