South, North Korea agree to high-level talks

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South, North Korea agree to high-level talks

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From left: Kim Kwan-jin, Director of National Security; Hong Yong-pyo, minister of unification; Hwang Pyong-so, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean Army; Kim Yang-gon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. [JoongAng Photo]

South and North Korea agreed to hold a high-level talk at the truce village of Panmunjom at 6 p.m. Saturday in an apparent effort to prevent ongoing tensions from escalating into a full-fledged military conflict.

South Korea’s presidential office announced around 3 p.m. on Saturday, two hours before Pyongyang’s deadline for Seoul to stop propaganda broadcasts along the border, that Kim Kwan-jin, President's national security adviser, and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo will meet with their North Korean counterparts Hwang Pyong-so and Kim Yang-gon.

Hwang, the director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean Army, is considered to be the country’s second-most powerful man after leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yang-gon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, is in charge of inter-Korean relations for the North.

“The talk’s agenda will include all ongoing inter-Korean matters,” said a Unification Ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The South Korean military has stated it will remain at its highest alert level.

North Korea first proposed a one-on-one talk between Kim Yang-on and Kim Kwan-jin at around 4 p.m. on Friday, the Blue House said.

Two hours later, Seoul demanded Hwang attend the talks instead of Kim Yang-gon.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Pyongyang replied by proposing a four-member talk, which Seoul accepted.

The duo from the North met with Kim Kwan-jin 10 months ago, when they visited the South to attend the closing ceremony for the Incheon Asian Games on Oct. 4.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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