Japan claims that its export restrictions on Seoul are not retaliatory, but that view faces opposition from within.
A day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in strongly criticized the measures as a "grave challenge," Japan responded.
Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, reiterated the claim Tuesday that the export restrictions are meant not to retaliate against South Korea but only to properly control its exports for national security purposes.
That point was echoed by Japan's trade minister.
"From the beginning, we have made it clear that this is for national security purposes to appropriately control our exports. This is not a countermeasure, and yesterday's remark from President Moon is not on point."
By this, the Japanese government means that the new measures have nothing to do with last year's landmark rulings by South Korean judges.
The Supreme Court had ordered a couple of Japanese firms to compensate South Koreans victimized through forced labor during Japan's colonial rule in the early 1900s.
Officials claiming the measures are not retaliation are contradicted by Japanese newspapers and lawmakers.
The Mainichi Shimbun, a major daily paper, wrote on Monday that it's an open secret that the export restrictions are connected to the court rulings.
Lawmakers with Japan's opposition party say the moves are clearly countermeasures and that they will hurt Japan's international image.
When Japan announced earlier this month that it was tightening control over high-tech materials shipped to South Korea, it cited breach of trust.
It had threatened sanctions on South Korea numerous times after the forced labor rulings last year.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.