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North and South Korea agree to family reunions

North and South Korea are to hold family reunions as planned later this month, according to South Korea. The decision came after further, high level talks between the two sides.

The agreement for reunions to take place between families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War came after a further session of high-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday.

"South and North Korea agreed to hold the reunion of separated families as scheduled," Kim Kyou-Hyun, South Korea's chief delegate to the talks with the North, told reporters.

The reunions are scheduled to take place at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea between February 20 and 25. Around 100 people from each side are due to take part and, if it goes ahead, it would be the first such reunion since 2010.

Most family members have died without ever meeting or talking to their relatives. Cross-border visits, along with postal and phone communications, are banned for ordinary citizens. About 71,000 people, more than half of them aged over 80, are on the South's waiting list for a reunion opportunity.

Tension at the talks increased earlier this week after the US and South Korea refused Pyongyang's call for annual military maneuvers to be postponed. The drills by the two allies are held every year but are routinely condemned by the North as a rehearsal for invasion. There were 0ears that the family reunions would be cancelled or postponed as a result.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in South Korea on Thursday for the first stage of his Asia tour to meet his counterpart Yun Byung-se. Kerry has now moved on to China to meet government leaders there.

jm/dr (dpa, AFP)

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