The Nikkei 225 slipped 0.67 percent, or 144.42 points. The index had pared losses of around 1 percent earlier in the day to hover around the flat line, before sliding once again.
The iron and steel sector, which would likely be affected if recently announced tariffs were implemented by the Trump administration, traded lower by 1.96 percent.
South Korea’s Kospi was off by 0.13 percent after notching gains earlier in the day. Despite the broader sentiment in the market, heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 3.19 percent and steelmaker Posco rose 0.57 percent.
Overnight news that North Korea was open to talks with the U.S. on denuclearization was also in focus as stocks with exposure to North Korea jumped. Shinwon, which Reuters said formerly managed factories in the Kaesong industrialized zone, surged 24.17 percent.
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.97 percent. All of the benchmark’s sub-indexes traded in the red, with the exception of gold producer stocks, which rose 1.6 percent.
Greater China markets were subdued. The Hang Seng Index shed 0.35 percent, while mainland markets were mixed: The Shanghai composite edged up 0.14 percent and the Shenzhen composite traded lower by 0.26 percent.
Trade fears, which had eased slightly in recent sessions, were in focus after White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned from the Trump administration on Tuesday.
While Cohn’s departure date has not been announced, the development comes after Trump’s announcement last week that tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent would be implemented on steel and aluminum imports, respectively. Cohn, a free trade advocate, had been against the tariffs.
The dollar slid against the safe-haven yen on the news, fetching 105.66 at 12:35 p.m. HK/SIN, after falling as low as 105.43 earlier and compared to the 106.1 handle seen at the end of the New York session.
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust also fell 1.5 percent while U.S. stock index futures traded lower. Dow Jones industrial average futures were down 363 points.
Following Trump’s threat that European Union car taxes could be taxed after the bloc said it would not sit idly by U.S. tariffs, one expert cautioned that tensions could continue to simmer.
“It won’t end there. It is not hard to characterize current market behavior as complacent,” wrote ING Chief Economist Robert Carnell in a note.
In corporate news, Japan’s Kobe Steel on Tuesday said CEO Hiroya Kawasaki would resign on April 1 following a data falsification scandal. Shares of Kobe Steel were down 6.4 percent, under-performing the broader index.
Meanwhile, Chinese banks got a boost on Wednesday after Reuters reported on Tuesday that regulators intended to cut the proportion of funds required to cover bad debt. China Construction Bank rose 3.08 percent and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China advanced 2.44 percent.
On the commodities front, oil prices moved in the same direction as stocks. U.S. crude futures lost 0.72 percent to trade at $62.15 per barrel and Brent crude futures were down 0.73 percent at $65.31.