FILE PHOTO: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell speaks to reporters as he arrives at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – Washington “will do what it can do” to help defuse a political and economic dispute between its allies South Korea and Japan, the top U.S. diplomat responsible for Asia policy said during a visit to Seoul on Wednesday.

David Stilwell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs, was in Seoul for a multi-day visit after previously stopping in Japan and the Philippines.

Washington has been hesitant to become involved in the dispute, and Stilwell did not say what steps the United States would be willing to take.

South Korea and Japan are locked in a dispute ranging from Japan’s wartime use of forced labor to trade curbs that threaten to disrupt global supplies of memory chips and smartphones.

(The story corrects headline, paragraph one quote to say “what”, not “all”.)

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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