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(LEAD) Koreas agree to hold high-level talks in mid-Dec.

2015/11/27 01:03

(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Nov. 27 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea agreed Friday to hold high-level government talks next month as they are seeking to mend strained ties following a landmark deal in August on easing military tension.

The two sides plan to hold vice-ministerial dialogue at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North's border city of the same name on Dec. 11, according to the Unification Ministry.

They reached the agreement in marathon working-level talks that began a day earlier at the border village of Panmunjom.

"Agendas for the high-level talks will be pending issues in connection with the improvement of inter-Korean relations," the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.

The move is part of efforts to implement the Aug. 25 deal to make efforts to defuse tension and hold high-level talks as soon as possible. At that time, the two Koreas had agreed to hold such talks either in Seoul or Pyongyang.

Inter-Korean relations have showed signs of improvement as both sides eked out the deal following heightened tension over a land-mine blast blamed on the North in early August. The incident maimed two South Korean soldiers near the border.

As part of the deal, the two Koreas held reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in late October. They still remain technically at war as the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The main contentious issues for next month's talks would include North Korea's possible demand for South Korea to resume a long-suspended inter-Korean tour program at Mount Kumgang in the North.

The North has called on the South to resume the Mount Kumgang tour program, a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, as it faces difficulty in earning hard currency under heavy sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.

South Korea, for its part, is expected to raise the issue of separated families as Seoul puts top priority on resolving it.

Seoul is seeking to hold family reunions on a regular basis as time is running out for the separated family members, whose number reaches more than 66,000 in South Korea.