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Japan to remove South Korea from ‘white list’ of favored trade partners

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved a plan to remove South Korea from a list of countries that enjoy minimum export controls, a move likely to escalate tensions fueled by a dispute over compensation for wartime forced laborers.

The decision to drop South Korea from the “white list,” a step that has been protested fiercely by Seoul, comes a month after Japan tightened curbs on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials needed to make memory chips and display panels.

The cabinet has approved the move, Japan’s industry minister, Hiroshige Seko said.

Japan has said the measures are based on national security concerns, citing South Korea’s insufficient export controls as well as the erosion of trust after South Korean court rulings ordered Japanese firms compensate wartime forced laborers.

Japan says the issue of compensation was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized ties between Tokyo and Seoul.

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