(3rd LD) Koreas to resume high-level talks this week
SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea will resume high-level talks this week, an official said Thursday, in an apparent attempt to break the deadlock in their relations.
The sides will hold the talks at the border village of Panmunjom at 10 a.m. on Friday at the North's request, the official of the unification ministry said.
The move came a day after the rival Koreas ended their first high-level talks in seven years without any tangible agreement.
The official said the two Koreas are expected to discuss the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The two sides are at odds over upcoming joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises that partly overlap a new round of family reunions scheduled to be held at a North Korean mountain resort from Feb. 20 to 25.
The North insisted that Seoul delay the military exercises until after the family unions end, noting it cannot hold the reunions during the period of the military exercises, which are set to run from Feb. 24 through mid-April.
Still, South Korea rejected the North's demand, noting that the annual exercises are defensive in their nature and have nothing to do with the family reunions, South Korean officials said.
The move raised the possibility that the North could stage the reunions from Feb. 20 to 23.
"We cannot accept any possible partial reunions," the South Korean official said.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said in a parliamentary session on Thursday that he expects the reunions to take place as scheduled.
North Korea has reacted sensitively to South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises for decades, condemning them as a rehearsal for invasion.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok ruled out the possibility of delaying the joint drills. Seoul and Washington say the exercises are defensive in nature.
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