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Japan Sends Envoy to South Korea to Discuss Island Dispute


A senior Japanese envoy is meeting South Korean officials in Seoul in an attempt to resolve a worsening dispute over an island chain both countries claim. South Korea says it hopes to avoid the use of force but says it is ready for "all scenarios" in its determination to stop Japan from conducting a controversial ocean survey.

Japan and South Korea engaged in hastily scheduled diplomacy Friday, while at least 20 South Korean coast guard ships patrolled the seas around the disputed island chain.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan met Friday evening with his Japanese counterpart, Shotaro Yachi, who arrived in Seoul earlier in the day. Yu said Friday South Korea wants to avoid a confrontation but cannot run away from the problem.

Japan says that while talks are going on, it will postpone plans to conduct a scientific survey near the tiny islands, which South Korea controls, but Tokyo also claims.

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso urged South Korean leaders to consider a recent diplomatic offer it made to resolve the issue.

Aso says the timing of the survey is linked to Seoul's decision to propose Korean names for ocean features in the disputed region at a global conference in June. If South Korea drops that proposal, he says, there would be no reason for Japan to conduct the survey at this time.

The dispute over the islands, which Koreans call Dokdo and Japan calls Takeshima, is intensely emotional for South Koreans.

South Korea regained control of the unoccupied islands at the end of World War II after 35 years of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea says Japan has not distanced itself from its imperial past, and even glorifies it.

Anger at Japan is unifying South Koreans across the political spectrum. Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of South Korea's main conservative opposition, says her party will support a hard-line stance by the government.

Park says because this is a matter of sovereignty, there is no room for South Korea to make concessions.

Adding to South Korea's anger was a visit by a group of Japanese lawmakers Friday to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which pays tribute to convicted war criminals alongside other Japanese dead. The Japanese lawmakers said the visit was not related to the current dispute.

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