South Korea removes Japan from fast-track trade 'white list'

FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands guard near Japan and South Korea national flags at hotel, where South Korean embassy in Japan is holding the reception to mark the 50th anniversary of normalisation of ties between Seoul and Tokyo, in Tokyo June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said on Wednesday it had approved plans to drop Japan from its “white list” of countries with fast track trade status, responding with a tit-for-tat move that intensifies a growing diplomatic and trade spat between the two countries.

Tighter trade regulations take effect immediately on Wednesday, including longer permit application processes and additional paperwork that will apply to South Korean exports to Japan related to weapons production, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement.

“The purpose of the amended trade regulations are to improve South Korea’s export control system, not retaliation against Japan,” the statement added.

South Korea in August said it was planning to remove Japan from its trade white list.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since a ruling by South Korea’s Supreme Court last year that Japanese companies should compensate South Koreans who were conscripted as forced laborers during World War Two.

Japan removed Seoul’s fast-export status in late August after imposing tighter controls on exports of three materials to South Korea used in chips and display industries.

South Korea on Monday filed a WTO dispute with Japan on export curbs. Under WTO rules, South Korea and Japan should meet within 30 days and if these talks fail, South Korea can request adjudication by a dispute settlement panel.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Kim Coghill