South Korea's Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo stressed on July 9 that there is no evidence that the hydrogen fluoride imported from Japan has been leaked to countries subject to U.N. resolutions, including North Korea.
"I do hope Japan will immediately stop making such groundless claims," Sung said in a press briefing at the Government Complex Seoul. This is a rejection of Japan's recent repeated allegations of the shipment of strategic materials such as hydrogene fluoride to the North.
"Relevant companies are granted export permits under local laws regarding control of exports of strategic goods," Sung said. "And we have reaffirmed that companies are also properly fulfilling their various duties." The government recently conducted an emergency survey on companies that import, process or export hydrogen fluoride from Japan.
"If there are grounds for the allegations, Japan, as a party to the U.N. Security Council resolution, is in a responsible position to share and cooperate with relevant countries, including South Korea," he said.
"The issue of sending strategic materials to North Korea is an issue concerning the violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," he sadi. "The Japanese official's raising of groundless suspicions is in complete contrast to the international community's assessment of high trust in Korea's strategic goods export control system."
"South Korea has joined all four major international export control systems and three major treaties, and has been operating export control systems on an exemplary basis," he added. "No country, including Japan, has ever questioned the reliability of our export control system."
Hydrogen fluoride is used for industrial purposes for metal smelting, semiconductor and compound manufacturing, and can be used in nerve agents for military purposes.
Sung said bilateral talks with Japan are scheduled to take place on the afternoon of July 12 and the venue is Tokyo. However, experts say that even if the two sides hold bilateral talks, there will be no major changes in the sanctions.
Meanwhile, the WTO's Commodity Trade Council, which began in Geneva, Switzerland on July 9, adopted Japan's export regulation measures as an emergency agenda item. The South Korean government intensively explained to its members that Japan's export-regulation measures are "unfair" in violation of the free trade principle. The Korean government also plans to deliver its position to the WTO General Council on July 23 and 24.