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UPDATE 1-S.Korea says to complain to WTO about U.S. tariffs on washing machines, solar panels

machines, solar panels@ (Add trade minister comments, latest share prices)

SEOUL, Jan 23 (Reuters) - South Korea said on Tuesday the government will complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about a U.S. decision to slap tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, calling the action "excessive" and "regrettable".

"The United States has opted for measures that put political considerations ahead of international standards," South Korea's trade minister Kim Hyun-chong said in a meeting with industry officials on Tuesday.

"The government will actively respond to the spread of protectionist measures to defend national interests," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Monday, dealing a blow to South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics

The decisions in the two "Section 201" safeguard cases came after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) found that both imported products were "a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers."

The tariffs being imposed on washing machines exceeded the harshest recommendations from ITC members, while the solar tariffs were lower than domestic producers had hoped for.

Trump ignored a recommendation from the ITC to exclude South Korean-produced washing machines from LG from the tariffs.

The United States will impose a 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million imported large residential washers in the first year, and a 50 percent tariff on machines above that number. The tariffs decline to 16 percent and 40 percent respectively in the third year.

A 30 percent tariff will be imposed on imported solar cells and modules in the first year, with the tariffs declining to 15 percent by the fourth year. The tariff allows 2.5 gigawatts of unassembled solar cells to be imported tariff-free in each year.

"The latest safeguard measures are in violation to WTO rules," Kim said.

LG Electronics shares fell as much as 5 percent in Seoul trading but recovered to stand just 1.8 percent lower than Monday's close, while shares in Samsung Electronics were up 0.83 percent in line with the South Korean market's 0.9 percent gain. (Reporting by Ju-min Park; Writing by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)