By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 2 warned that Korea will resolutely respond to Japan's removal of Korea from a whitelist of preferential trading nations.
In a hastily convened Cabinet meeting after Japan earlier in the morning approved a bill to delist Korea, he expressed deep regret over the move by saying the Japanese government refused to work things out diplomatically and made an impetuous decision by exacerbating bilateral tension.
"We suggested to the Japanese government that we solve this crisis diplomatically and for Japan not to walk toward a dead-end. But Tokyo ultimately refused our suggestion of cooperation to resolve this problem," he said.
The decision to delist Korea is Japan's "blatant retaliation against the Korean Supreme Court's ruling (that ordered Japanese corporations to pay damages to Koreans victims of forced labor during Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century)," he added.
The president said the delisting "violates universal rights and the major principle of international law, which bans forced labor and upholds democracy based on the separation of powers."
He also warned that Japan's decision is a grave threat to bilateral relations and will damage the mutual trust and economic cooperation built over decades between the two countries.
"The Japanese government will evidently face criticism from the international community for its selfish actions that disrupt the global supply chain and greatly harm the global economy," he added.
President Moon pledged that his administration will take measures to respond to Japan's "unjust economic retaliation," saying, "If Japan intentionally deals a blow to our economy, it will also have to endure big losses itself."
Despite his strong words, the president said he does not want the two countries to engage in a cycle of retaliation.
"The only solution to this conflict is for Japan to immediately scrap its unilateral and unjust measures and step forward to hold dialogue with Korea," he said.