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Japan-South Korea rift

South Korea asks Japan to cancel plan to remove the country from white list

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea said on Wednesday a Japanese plan to remove South Korea from a Japanese list of countries that face minimum trade restrictions would undermine their decades-old economic and security cooperation and threaten free trade.

Japan's planned revision of a law to take South Korea off its so-called white list comes amid a deepening row over compensation for wartime forced labour, and after Japan tightened curbs this month on exports to South Korea of high-tech materials used for making memory chips and display panels.

South Korea's industry ministry said in a statement Japan's removal of South Korea from the white list would be a very grave matter that would undermine the economic and security partnership between the two countries,

It asked Japan to scrap its plan.

"It is a very grave matter that shakes the foundation of South Korea-Japan economic partnership and Northeast Asian security cooperation that has been maintained and developed for more than 60 years," Sung Yoon-mo, the South Korean industry minister, told a briefing.

"Removal of South Korea from the white list of countries is against international norms and we are worried about its serious negative impact on global value chains and free trade," Sung said.

Japan has threatened to drop South Korea from the white list of countries that face minimum trade restrictions under a trade control law. That would require Japanese exporters to seek a licence for items that could be used in some weapons-related applications.

On Japan's white list are 27 countries, from Germany to South Korea, Britain and the United States.

Japan will decide on the revision after pooling public opinions. The deadline for the hearing of public opinions was July 24.

South Korea's industry ministry had sent an email including its request to shelve the plan to the Japanese government, a ministry official said.

Japanese government spokesman were not immediaely available for comment on Wednesday.

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