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Talks between Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and his South Korean counterpart, Yoo Chong Ha, will be held Jan. 15 in Seoul as scheduled despite renewed tension between the two countries over a deal made between Japan and former sex slaves of the Imperial Japanese Army, the Japanese government’s top spokesman said Jan. 13.Some press reports in South Korea suggested over the weekend that Seoul was considering refusing Ikeda’s one-day trip to the capital to protest the distribution of 2 million yen in atonement money to each of seven South Korean women who were forced to provide sex to Imperial army troops. Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama told a news conference Jan. 13 that Ikeda “will probably be able to go to South Korea” as scheduled because the South Korean Foreign Ministry has denied the reports.Documents guaranteeing the atonement payments were distributed Jan. 11 to the former “comfort women” in Seoul by the government-initiated Asian Women’s Fund, which has collected donations from the private sector to pay a fraction of Japan’s Asian victims. Actual payments will be made later. Ikeda and Yoo will prepare for a summit between Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and President Kim Young Sam on Jan. 25 and 26 in the hot spring resort of Beppu, Oita Prefecture.The South Korean government has expressed “regret” over the fund’s distribution of the atonement money to the women, saying it is not a solution agreeable to all parties concerned. Most South Korean victims as well as their support groups have been calling for the Japanese government to admit responsibility for the nation’s past atrocities and directly compensate the women.

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