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    S. Korea Accepts North's Offer to Hold Talks

    South Korea has accepted an offer by the North to hold official talks, in a sign that tensions continue to cool following weeks of deteriorating relations on the Korean peninsula.

    Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea unexpectedly offered Thursday to hold talks on a pair of stalled joint commercial projects. It also suggested talks were possible on humanitarian issues.

    Seoul's unification ministry quickly accepted the offer, saying it hopes the talks can help build trust between the two neighbors. It said it will soon announce the date, agenda, and other details of the discussions.

    The South had previously said it was open to working-level talks, but was reluctant to commit to wide-ranging discussions unless the North agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.



    The North's statement Thursday said the talks should include the possible re-opening of the Kaesong industrial complex, a jointly run factory north of the border that was shuttered in April amid heightened tensions.

    It also proposed discussing the resumption of cross-border tours to the North's Mount Kumgang resort. South Korea halted visits there after the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist by the North's troops.

    The statement said humanitarian issues, such as the resumption of separated Korean families, can be discussed, "if necessary." It also promised to reconnect a severed communications hotline with Seoul at the Panmunjom truce village, if the South agreed to the talks.

    Korean relations sank to their lowest level in years following Pyongyang's rocket launch in December and nuclear test in February, moves that led to expanded United Nations sanctions against the North.

    In response, Pyongyang launched an almost daily barrage of threats against the South. As part of the campaign, North Korea pulled its workers from the Kaesong center in protest. South Korea removed its managers a short time later, closing the last remaining economic link between the two Koreas.

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