In a bid to give South Korea and Japan time to thrash out their differences, the U.S. has urged the two countries to sign a "standstill agreement."
This according to Reuters on Tuesday, citing a senior U.S. official.
It's deemed highly likely Japan will start the process of removing South Korea from its exports whitelist at a cabinet meeting set for Friday.
The U.S. official said the standstill agreement would not help narrow the differences between the two sides, but would prevent further actions taking place for a set period of time to allow talks to happen.
The length of the agreement has not yet been determined.
This means Washington is looking to get involved and mediate the Seoul-Tokyo trade spat.
Until now, the U.S. has been cautious, saying the issue needs to be solved by the two countries themselves and it's difficult for the U.S. to side with one country over the other as both are key allies in the region.
On top of the proposed standstill agreement, a trilateral meeting among the top diplomats of South Korea, the U.S., and Japan will happen this week on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that fact on his way to the forum's host city, Bangkok.
He said after meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts one-on-one, he'll meet with them together and encourage them to find a way forward.
Meanwhile, Seoul's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is continuing to stress how unjustified Tokyo's export curbs are.
Leaving for Bangkok on Wednesday, she said:
"I think it's important to clearly let the international community and the many foreign ministers attending the ARF know that these restrictions imposed by Japan are unjust and should stop."
Washington is concerned the trade dispute could end up hurting their trilateral coordination in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
Reuters also reports the U.S. is closely watching what Seoul will do with an intelligence sharing agreement between Seoul and Tokyo.
The deal automatically renews on August 24th but the South Korean government has hinted it could terminate the agreement under certain circumstances.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.