Japan to put South Korea back on trade ‘white list’

South Korea will be reinstated to Japan’s list of trustworthy trade partners in July, the cabinet announced Tuesday, restoring its exclusion in 2019 over a dispute over historical forced labor.

The move, which follows Seoul’s restoration of Japan on its own trade “white list” earlier this year, is the latest step in the neighbors’ efforts to heal ties.

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Trade with South Korea will once again be expedited beginning July 21, according to Tokyo’s trade ministry.

Because of the painful memories of Japan’s ruthless rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, relations between the two US allies have long been strained.

South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies to compensate wartime victims of forced labor in 2018, provoking an escalation of tit-for-tat economic measures.

However, since taking office last year, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has moved to fast enhance ties with Japan in the face of North Korean threats.

Yoon proposed a proposal to compensate victims without direct involvement from Tokyo in March, a move that was unpopular at home but helped mend relations with Japan.

Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have resumed regular high-level meetings since then, with Yoon visiting Tokyo in April and Kishida visiting Seoul last month.

Japan also lifted export curbs on semiconductor materials destined for South Korea this year, while Seoul abandoned a WTO case against Japan and proceeded to normalize a military intelligence-sharing arrangement.

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