South Korean political parties strongly condemned Japan's decision to remove South Korea from a list of preferred trade partners Friday, with the ruling party calling the move an "economic invasion."
But rival parties differed over the government's future response to Japan's move. The ruling Democratic Party raised the possibility of South Korea scrapping its military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan while the main opposition party stressed the need to seek diplomatic solutions.
Earlier in the day, Japan's Cabinet approved a proposal to strip South Korea from the "whitelist" of countries subject to preferential trade status in additional economic retaliation over a row surrounding Japan's wartime forced labor.
The ruling party described Japan's decision as a "blitzkrieg against the Korean economy."
"The Japanese government's reckless decision will squeeze its status in the international community and eventually harm itself," Rep. Park Chan-dae, floor spokesman of the DP, said in a statement.
The DP leadership openly raised doubts over whether to keep the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan.
In November 2016, Seoul and Tokyo signed the pact, which enables them to share confidential military information to better counter nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. The agreement is supposed to be automatically renewed every year unless either party notifies the other of its intention to terminate it 90 days ahead of the end of a one-year period.
"I wonder whether the pact is meaningful at a time when trust cannot be found in Northeast Asia. I will deeply think about this issue and have no intentions to stick to the meaningless thing," DP chairman Lee Hae-chan told a party meeting.
Lee previously called for prudence about the potential scrapping of the GSOMIA.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party called on the Japanese government to immediately withdraw its export restrictions.
"It is a clearly wrong decision that deals a blow to Seoul-Tokyo ties," LKP chief Hwang Kyo-ahn said at an emergency party meeting.
"We should not give up diplomatic solutions as there are three weeks before the implementation of the whitelist decision," he added.
Earlier in the day, National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang expressed "deep regret" over Japan's decision after presiding over an emergency meeting with senior aides.
"I cannot help voicing my disappointment with the (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe Cabinet," Moon was quoted as saying by Han Min-soo, parliamentary spokesman.
"All responsibility for diplomatic, security and economic repercussions of that decision fall on the Abe Cabinet," he said.
Korean political parties displayed rare bipartisanship to cope with Japan's export curbs against South Korea.
The National Assembly passed a parliamentary resolution urging Japan to immediately withdraw its export restrictions in a unanimous vote during a plenary meeting.
A parliamentary delegation of Korean lawmakers visited Japan earlier this week to help resolve an intensifying trade spat with Japan.
But they returned home empty-handed late Thursday after a leading Japanese politician abruptly canceled a planned meeting designed to discuss the row. (Yonhap)