SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) -- A row between Japan and South Korea escalated on Saturday, with contested accounts of a frosty meeting the day before that had failed to make progress on a dispute that could threaten global supplies of microchips and smartphone displays.
Tokyo lodged a protest against Seoul, saying it had broken an agreement on what the two sides would disclose from the Friday discussions on Japan’s curbs of exports to Korea of some materials used to make high-tech equipment, said Japanese trade ministry official Jun Iwamatsu.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) also disputed a Korean official’s statement that Seoul had asked Japan on Friday to withdraw the restrictions.
But a Korean trade ministry official shot back that Seoul had "clearly demanded Japan withdraw its trade restrictions at yesterday’s meeting, and there should be no disagreement over that matter with Japan.”
He told Reuters the two sides had discussed what they would disclose but that there was no agreement.
"I am frustrated,” said the Korean official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Japan recently tightened restrictions on the export of three materials used in high-tech equipment, citing what it has called "inadequate management” of sensitive items exported to South Korea, as well as a lack of consultations about export controls.
But the dispute also appears to be rooted in a decades-old wartime disagreement. It comes amid deep frustration in Japan over what Tokyo sees as Seoul’s failure to act in response to a South Korean court ruling ordering a Japanese company to compensate former forced laborers from the Second World War.