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Koreas agree to new peace bid

The border between North and South Korea is one of the most heavily fortified in the world
The border between North and South Korea is one of the most heavily fortified in the world  


SEOUL, South Korea -- North and South Korea have agreed to hold talks later this month in a renewed bid to reunify the divided peninsula.

North Korea on Thursday accepted the South's invite to travel to Seoul to resume talks, which could begin as early as September 15, following an almost six-month impasse.

The move shunts aside skepticism that the dismissal of South Korea's key policymaker on the North this week, which led to the entire cabinet resigning, would dent the peace process.

And it follows a surprising proposal by North Korea on Sunday that talks between the two be resumed after months of silence.

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A landmark summit between the leaders of both nations last year led to a flurry of activities, including family meetings, that boosted hopes that tensions between the two could be resolved.

The two neighbors remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended without a peace treaty.

There has been no contact between the two countries since March. Talks broke off because of tension between North Korea and the United States, South Korea's chief ally.

Cabinet reshuffle

The bid to hold four days of talks, which would be the fifth round of ministerial meetings between the two since the June summit last year, comes as President Kim Dae-jung faces political turmoil at home.

His entire cabinet resigned this week following a vote to sack the minister in charge of North Korean policy amid claims he was being "soft" on North Korea.

In a vote that analysts say can be seen as a proxy poll on Kim's approach to the North, the National Assembly voted to dismiss Unification Ministry head Lim Dong-won.

Korea summit
Talks have stalled because of the North's tension with the U.S., a key ally of the South  

Lim was a chief proponent of the president's so-called "sunshine" policy of engaging North Korea.

Lim's dismissal came after his ministry's approved a controversial visit to Pyongyang by South Korean activists, more than 100 of whom joined rallies which North Korea used in anti-Seoul propaganda.

A South Korea presidential spokesman told Reuters on Thursday the government may replace as many as eight cabinet ministers on Friday, including some of those in charge of the economy.







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