It appears that Japanese companies may have smuggled strategic items to North Korea.
Citing data from Japan's Center for Information on Security Trade Control South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the minor opposition Bareun Mirae Party said Japanese authorities found that strategic items were shipped to the North illegally by Japanese firms.
The agency is a non-governmental organization in Japan that tracks data on export controls.
Among the strategic items is hydrogen fluoride, one of the three materials Japan is now restricting South Korea's access to.
"Between 1996 and 2013, there were over 30 cases of illegal exports. Among those are items used in North Korea's nuclear development or in the production of chemical weapons."
The data obtained by Ha show that in 1996 a North Korean ship was found carrying 50 kilograms of sodium fluoride at a port in Osaka, while another vessel was found with 50 kilograms of hydrofluoric acid at a port in Kobe.
The latest revelation comes as Tokyo accuses Seoul of smuggling hydrogen fluoride to the North which would be a violation of UN Security Council sanctions.
Japan claims that's partly why it's restricting those exports, but Seoul sees it as a retaliation for a court ruling that calls on Japanese firms to compensate the people they forced to work for them during wartime.
"Japan is making the preposterous claim that hydrogen fluoride imported by South Korea may have been funneled to North Korea. But the data show it's been Japanese firms that have been smuggling this material to the North."
During a parliamentary interpellation session on Thursday, the government again flatly denied the claims.
"The Japanese media continue to step up attacks on South Korea. Have we ever smuggled hydrogen fluoride to North Korea?
"We have not. And even when firms attempted to, the South Korean authorities have caught them and have been working to implement sanctions under the U.N. sanctions regime. It's a shame that Japan is making claims on inaccurate reports and data."
The prime minister added that it's extremely dangerous for the Japanese government to rationalize its economic retaliation by linking it to security issues, saying that it could hurt the security system between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.