Photo/IllutrationChief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a news conference on Aug. 8 (The Asahi Shimbun)

The government issued a permit on Aug. 8 approving the export to South Korea of one of three products used in semiconductor production.

It was the first permit issued since July 4 when the government tightened regulations on exports of the products to its neighbor, starting a trade dispute between the countries.

The government said it decided to allow the permit after the product passed a screening that determined it was not at risk of being diverted for military purposes.

The product is a sensitized material called “resist” that is applied to semiconductor substrate. A Japanese manufacturer applied for permission to export it.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the move demonstrated that Japan is not playing politics with its trade decisions.

“We showed that, as for justifiable trade, we issued an export permit without using regulations arbitrarily,” Suga said at a news conference that was held after a Cabinet meeting on Aug. 8.

“In regard to export controls, we will continue to conduct screenings strictly so that (the three products) are not used for purposes other than their permitted purposes,” he added.

Under Japan's strengthened regulations, the procedures needed to export the three products take up to about 90 days. In the case of the Aug. 8 export permit, however, it took only about one month.

However, a high-ranking Abe administration official denied that the government decided to give South Korea special treatment.

The other two products needed to produce semiconductors are hydrogen fluoride, used to clean semiconductors, and acyl polyimide, necessary for manufacturing displays for televisions and smartphones.

Prior to imposing new export controls on July 4, the government had collectively issued export permits for the three products to individual companies for certain periods.

Since then, the government has been screening each contract for the three products. As justification for the change, the government said that some exports involving South Korea had been inappropriate.

On Aug. 7, the government issued an ordinance to remove South Korea from its “white list” of nations that are given preferential trade status.

After the ordinance takes effect on Aug. 28, the government will implement individual screenings on each export contract for products and technologies that can be used for military purposes. It has included machine tools on the list.