North, South Korea to meet for high-level talks

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- North and South Korea on Friday were set to hold high-level talks at a North Korean border town in their latest step to improve ties after they walked away from a military standoff in August.

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No major breakthrough was expected at the meeting between vice-ministerial officials in Kaesong, but analysts said it was meaningful the rivals were carrying out on previously agreed reconciliation efforts.

South Korean officials have expressed hopes of discussing more reunions between aging family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Analysts have said cash-strapped North Korea might seek the South's commitment to restart joint tours to its scenic Diamond Mountain resort, which were suspended by Seoul in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist there by North Korean soldiers.

"There are a lot of issues to discuss between the South and North. (We) will do our best to resolve them one at a time, step by step," said Hwang Boogi, South Korea's vice minister of unification and the head negotiator for the talks, before leaving for Kaesong.

Expectations for Friday's meeting were lowered last month when both sides in preparatory negotiations settled for a meeting at the vice-ministerial level, which likely ruled out discussions on more important issues between the rivals.

The countries threatened war against each other last summer over land mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers. The standoff eased in August when they met for marathon talks and agreed on a set of tension-reduction efforts, including resuming talks between senior officials, and holding a new round of reunions for war-separated families, which were held in October.

The Koreas remain technically at war, because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


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