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2 Koreas Plan Talks on Flood Control, Family Reunions

2 Koreas Plan Talks on Flood Control, Family Reunions

2 Koreas Plan Talks on Flood Control, Family Reunions

North and South Korea have agreed to hold talks on managing shared waterways and arranging more reunions between families separated by the 1950s war. The move toward dialogue comes despite a series of short-range missile tests by the North, which are being downplayed in the South.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says Pyongyang's launch of at least five short-range missiles did not affect Tuesday's agreement to hold talks.

Lee Jong-joo, a ministry spokesperson, says North Korea has agreed to the South's proposal to discuss flood prevention along the shared Imjin River on October 14. They have also agreed to Red Cross talks on the October 16 dealing with separated families.

Both subjects are high priority for Seoul. Six South Koreans drowned last month when the North suddenly released water from a dam, flooding camping areas in the South. And tens of thousands of elderly Koreans have not seen family members they left behind since the North invaded the South in 1950.

The United States says North Korea's missile test Monday has not altered its determination to bring Pyongyang back to talks on its nuclear weapons.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu is also unconcerned. He says he thinks the missile test will not affect what he calls "the improving situation on the Korean peninsula."

Short-range test launches are not formally prohibited under United Nations sanctions against the North, which forbid medium and long-range ballistic activities. Experts here in Seoul generally view the short-range launches as routine, and say there is no serious cause for alarm.

Kim Tae-woo is a researcher with the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. He says North Korea is doing this for its own internal purposes of maintaining its ballistic missile capability.

Pyongyang has advised ships to steer clear of its coastal waters until October 20; many North Korea experts see that as a sign that more launches are to come.

Whether it is intended or not, the missile launches serve as an implicit reminder to South Korea of the North's ability to inflict massive damage on very short notice. Military planners say a barrage of North Korean short range missiles and artillery could kill hundreds of thousands in the capital city, Seoul, in a matter of hours.