Japan has lifted restrictions on exports to South Korea of materials necessary for making chips. With this, the two countries have taken a new step towards normalising trade relations.
Earlier this week, South Korea had already returned Japan to a list of trusted trading partners.
Relations between the two neighbouring countries were tense for several years. That tension arose after the highest court in South Korea ruled that a Japanese company had to pay compensation for forcing Koreans to work as labourers during World War II. Japan argued that a 1965 treaty normalising ties between Tokyo and Seoul had already dealt with that issue.
The Japanese measures did not cause problems for South Korean chip companies such as Samsung and SK Hynix. But they were seen in South Korea as a punitive economic measure and further soured relations. Under the new South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol, the country is again seeking closer relations with Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has responded favourably to this.
The thaw in the relationship between the two major Asian economies is important for their Western allies. They can act better as a bloc against China and North Korea. The threat from those countries is perceived as greater since the Russian invasion of Ukraine early last year.