go to top
South Korean business owners stage a rally calling for a boycott of Japanese products. South Korean small and medium-sized business owners stage a rally calling for a boycott of Japanese products in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, July 15, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

South Korea and Japan Are Embroiled in a Trade War. Can the U.S. Step In?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

As China’s trade war with the United States casts a pall over the global economy, a separate dispute between two of China’s neighbors—and two American allies—is adding to the gloomy outlook. Earlier this month, Japan curbed exports to South Korea of three materials that are necessary for the production of semiconductors and display screens, threatening to upend South Korea’s technology industry and throw a wrench into complex global supply chains for smartphones, televisions and other popular consumer devices. The move is only the latest escalation in an ongoing standoff, rooted in deep historical grievances, that has regional observers and officials in Washington increasingly worried.

Under the new restrictions, which took effect on July 4, Japanese exporters must apply for a license from the government each time they want to make a shipment of the affected materials: hydrogen fluoride, photoresists and fluorinated polyimides. The license can take up to 90 days and had previously been waived for South Korea. Japanese officials claim the change was made on national security grounds, alleging that the materials, which have potential military applications, have been improperly managed by South Korean companies in the past. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has even hinted that the materials may have been illegally transferred to North Korea, which South Korea denies. Hydrogen fluoride, also known as etching gas, is a particular concern because it can be used to manufacture chemical weapons like sarin and VX, which North Korea is widely believed to have stockpiles of. ...

Want to Read the Rest?
Login or Subscribe Today.
Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts. Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 9,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

YES, I want to subscribe now.