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South Korea agrees to meet with North in effort to ease tensions

Seoul has accepted an invitation from Pyongyang to hold government-level talks within a week. The decision comes after a tense border standoff in August, after which the two pledged to improve ties.

South Korean leaders agreed to meet with their North Korean counterparts for a high-level government meeting to take place on November 26, the first of its kind in a joint effort to help ease tension between the two countries following a standoff this summer.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea had invited the South on Friday to hold a meeting on November 26 in the truce village of Panmunjom. The government in Seoul later said it had accepted the invitation.

Heightened tension

The move comes after heightened tension between the two countries this summer following landmine blasts along the border that injured South Korean soldiers. Seoul blamed the blasts on the North, which denied any responsibility. The situation heightened unease at the world's most heavily fortified border, as both sides threatened each other.

An August 25 agreement between the two governments ended the standoff. Since then, South Korea has made efforts to bring the North to the negotiating table.

Frozen relations

In October, the two countries held a series of reunions between family members separated during the Korean War, which took place from 1950-53 and led to the division of the country.

Relations between the two countries reached a postwar nadir following the sinking in 2010 of a South Korean warship, another incident Seoul blames on Pyongyang.

North Korea is also faced with a series of UN sanctions imposed upon it in response to its nuclear weapons tests.

On Monday, the UN denied a report that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was planning to visit North Korea.

blc/msh (Reuters, AP)

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