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Seoul presses for U.S. help in Japan export row

Reuters SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korea’s foreign minister told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Japan’s export curbs against Seoul are “undesirable,” the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, as a trade row between the East Asian neighbors grows.

South Korea’s ruling party also announced on Thursday that up to about 300 billion won ($254.8 million) would be included in a supplementary budget bill to cope with Japan’s export curbs.

S&P Global Rating’s Asia-Pacific chief economist Shaun Roache said the dispute was as unpredictable as the U.S.-China trade war, and was likely to affect South Korea’s economic growth.

Japan tightened curbs last week on exports of three materials crucial for smartphone displays and chips, saying trust with South Korea had been broken in 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. and SK Hynix Inc., which supply chips to companies such as Apple Inc.

South Korea and Japan clashed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this week and Seoul is stepping up diplomatic overtures to their mutual ally, the United States, to step in. However, experts said the United States is unlikely to step in as a mediator in the dispute.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told Pompeo in a phone call late on Wednesday that Japan’s trade restrictions may not only cause damage to South Korean companies, but could also disrupt the global supply chain and hurt U.S. companies.

Kang “expressed concern that this is undesirable in terms of friendly relations between South Korea and Japan and trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan,” the ministry said. Seoul hoped Tokyo would withdraw the curbs and that the situation would not deteriorate further, it said.

Former Japanese ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, “I don’t think we need the United States to mediate, just like Japan would not mediate U.S.-Mexico ties or U.S.-Canada relations.”Speech

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