Japan again emphasized that its tightened export controls do not violate international trade rules after South Korea filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization on Sept. 11.

“We want to firmly explain Japan’s position that (the tightened export controls) are consistent with WTO convention,” former trade minister Hiroshige Seko said at a news conference after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on Sept. 11.

According to an analysis by Japanese Foreign Ministry officials, Seoul filed the complaint with the WTO to win over public opinion in South Korea, making the measure a domestic issue.

One ministry official implied that South Korea was behaving childishly.

“For Japan, there is no way except to engage in diplomacy as adults,” the official said.

The Japanese government said its strengthened export controls on three chemical products needed to manufacture semiconductors and displays are justified by Article 21 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The article allows member nations to take exceptional measures against certain countries for national security purposes.

Tokyo has said the controls were tightened on the three products bound for South Korea because that country’s trade control systems contain defects, resulting in an inappropriate handling of some products.

“Japan’s strengthened export controls are necessary measures to appropriately manage trade in cargo and technologies that could be converted to military purposes,” a Japanese government official said.

Seoul said Tokyo strengthened the export controls in retaliation against a South Korean Supreme Court order for Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean wartime laborers, an allegation the Japanese government denies.

However, when the Japanese government announced its policy of strengthening export controls on July 1, it cited as one reason the unsatisfactory measures taken by South Korea to resolve the wartime laborers issue.

When South Korea indicated it would file the complaint with the WTO, several Japanese experts expressed worries that Japan’s mentioning of the wartime laborers issue could be used as evidence against Japan’s arguments.

Since then, Japanese government officials have avoided bringing up the wartime issue in explaining their stance in the trade dispute.

“We have no choice but to steadily take clerical procedures so that we are not told by South Korea that (Japan’s strengthened export controls) are arbitrary measures,” a high-ranking official of the trade ministry said.