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Will Japan rebuff overture from South Korea's new leader?

Yoon's circle fears Tokyo's intransigence could kill chance of diplomatic thaw

South Korea's President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, right, and Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi meet in Seoul on March 28. (Yonhap/Kyodo)

TOKYO -- Japanese and South Korean officials held their breath as South Korea's President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol met Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi at his transition committee's office in Seoul on March 28. They breathed a collective sigh of relief when the talks went smoothly. The atmosphere was "congenial," said one diplomat involved in the meeting.

One reason for their nervousness was an event unfolding on the same day in Tokyo's Nagatacho area, Japan's political power center. At the headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a group of Diet members formed an association to promote Japan's bid for UNESCO World Heritage status for a former gold and silver mine on Sado Island. South Korea has voiced fierce opposition to such a designation, citing the issue of wartime Korean laborers conscripted to work in Japan. The new association's inaugural meeting was attended by LDP heavyweights who support the designation, including former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso.

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