Tensions between two Asian neighbors are increasing following Japan's decision to remove South Korea from its list of trading partners eligible for preferential export procedures.
In central Seoul, protesters rallied against Japan's latest action. Participants called on Tokyo to retract its decision. They held up signs denouncing the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and said they were prepared to fight till the end.
The South Korean government announced on Friday it will likewise remove Japan from its own list of trusted trade partners. It also said it will step up preparations to take the issue to the World Trade Organization.
At a Cabinet meeting on Saturday, South Korean officials discussed further countermeasures.
Afterward, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said, "Japan's latest decision is the second retaliation against South Korea." He added that "Japan has crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed."
He revealed that his government will provide financial support to affected businesses. He said the fund will also go toward helping the country develop its own materials for microchip production.
Japan has tightened export controls on chemicals used to manufacture the chips.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono spoke to reporters about the issue on Saturday in Thailand, where he met with his counterparts from Southeast Asian nations.
Kono said, "Applying export controls is an obligation for Japan as a responsible member of the international community." He added that "other nations including the United States understand Japan's stance well."
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko also weighed in. He spoke from Beijing, where ministers from 16 countries were gathered to discuss free trade.
He said, "Japan is reviewing its export controls to implement them more appropriately for national security." He insisted that "the measures are not in violation of WTO rules and have no impact on the global supply chain."