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North Korea Says Family Reunions Will Proceed: Seoul

South Korea says it has agreed with North Korea to proceed with family reunions between families separated by the Korean War, despite Pyongyang's concerns about Seoul's upcoming military drills with the United States.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said the agreement was reached Friday during the second round of high-level talks at the Panmunjom border village. The ministry said a third round will be held as needed, but will not take place regularly.

The two Koreas also agreed to stop making "slanderous" remarks against each other in order to help improve relations.

The negotiations are a continuation of the highest level talks in seven years between the two foes, which technically remain in a state of war following their 1950s conflict.

At the first round of talks Wednesday, North Korea demanded Seoul and Washington delay joint military drills scheduled to occur around the same time as the family reunions later this month.

The North, which views the drills as preparations to invade, had previously called for the exercises to be cancelled. The U.S. and South Korea say the drills are not aggressive in nature and must go on.



The war drills, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are set to begin February 24 and last for weeks. The family reunions are scheduled to occur between February 20-25.

In addition to its concern over the drills, the North also wants to resume lucrative South Korean tours to its Mount Kumgang resort area.

This is the first time senior North and South Korean officials have met since 2007.

The meeting was requested by Pyongyang, which has recently signaled it is ready to improve ties.

But the South has insisted it will not do so unless North Korea agrees to take steps towards dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

It is not known whether the nuclear issue was among the topics to be discussed at this week's talks.

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