Trade Tensions Escalate Between South Korea and Japan

A diplomatic dispute between the world’s two largest providers of smartphones and chips unfolded this Tuesday after Japanese officials stated that a key chemical planned to be exported to South Korea was eventually shipped to North Korea instead. Already two countries with a tumultuous history, a trade dispute between Japan and South Korea could disrupt the global supply of computer chips and smartphones, particularly targeting tech giants such as Samsung Electronics, Apple Inc. and Huawei, who rely heavily on the supply of computer chips and smartphones.

The dispute erupted after a report was released that quoted an unnamed senior member of the Japanese government, stating that a shipment of hydrogen fluoride, a chemical used in chemical weapons, was shipped to South Korea but arrived in North Korean shores. Such a dispute was preceded by Japan’s implementation of export curbs to South Korea, which Tokyo claims does not violate WTO standards. South Korea, however, seems to be pressing the WTO and the US on the matter.

The current dispute and the implementation of the curbs stem from Japan’s frustration over what it called South Korean  “lack of action” in regards to a case against last year against Nippon Steel, which dates back to World War II.

South Korean officials will meet with the WTO this Friday and present their case to the trade organization.

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