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North Korea, South Korea agree to high-level talks

Officials from North and South Korea have concluded talks saying they will hold a further round at deputy-minister level in December. It's renewal of talks follows months of tension that included an armed standoff.

After a

meeting on Thursday in the border truce village of Panmunjom,

representatives from North Korea and South Korea agreed to another set of meetings to take place December 11 in the industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong.

It lies just north of the demarcation line that has separated the two Koreas since the peninsula's war that ended in 1953 with only an armistice and not a peace treaty.

"The agenda will be issues that will improve relations between the South and the North," officials said in a joint statement.

Thursday's meeting

came about after the two countries reached an agreement in which Pyongyang expressed regret over landmine blasts near the border that wounded two South Korean soldiers.

The plan for next month's talks represent the latest attempt to renew high-level dialogue between the countries since 2010, when a South Korean naval vessel was destroyed by a torpedo fired from the North. Pyongyang denied having a role in the ship's sinking.

As part of an August agreement, reunions between families on either side of the border could resume, a key request of the South Korean side.

North Korea is eager to see tours to its Mount Kumgang resort start again after being suspended in 2008 when a North Korean border guard shot a South Korean tourist. Visitors to the resort provide Pyongyang with much-needed hard currency.

There is no guarantee of the December talks' success, however. A similar agreement for talks in June 2013 fell apart just days before the scheduled meeting could take place. The United Nations is also understood to be in discussions with North Korea over a visit by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that could take place before the end of 2015.

sms/ipj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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