News earlier this month that a UNESCO advisory panel had recommended putting Japanese sites from the Meiji industrial revolution on the World Heritage list excited the public, especially residents near the sites who campaigned for the honor.

But the excitement was soon halted by South Korea, which opposed the application because Koreans were forced to work at some of the sites during the war, which followed Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910. China later joined Seoul in opposing Japan's bid.

Normally, candidate sites recommended by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, dubbed Icomos, are usually a lock for World Heritage status. But South Korea and China have thrown that into doubt.