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Koreas Agree to High-Level Talks Next Month


In this photo provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korea's chief delegate Kim Kiwoong, right, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Hwang Chol during a meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korea, Thursday, Nov. 26

The two Koreas agreed Thursday to hold a rare high-level dialogue next month, in line with an accord struck in August aimed at easing cross-border tensions, the Unification Ministry in Seoul announced.

A ministry spokesman said the two sides would meet at the deputy minister-level on December 11 in the Kaesong joint industrial zone, just inside North Korea.

Meetings between mid-level officials began Thursday on the North Korean side of the "truce village" Panmunjom.

Major issues between the nations include reunions for the surviving members of families separated decades ago by the division of the Korean Peninsula. Also at stake is North Korea's possible demand for South Korea to resume a long-suspended inter-Korean tour program at Mount Kumgang in the North and to lift Seoul's punitive sanctions on the North.

South Korea's chief negotiator Kim Ki-woong told reporters in Seoul before he left for the meeting that his side would do its best to accomplish the goals of the meeting.

The Korean talks do not have a history of great success. The last attempt at high-level talks in 2013 was suspended only a day before they were supposed to take place, when North Korea took issue with the fact that South Korea was not sending its top-level official to the meeting.