North and South Korea to hold 'high-level' meeting

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Story highlights

  • The talks will take place on the South Korean side of the border
  • There is no agenda for the meeting, but planned family reunions are likely to be discussed
  • North Korea has warned it may back out of the reunions, scheduled for later this month
  • It has urged South Korea not to participate in annual military drills with the United States

North and South Korea will hold a "high-level meeting" Wednesday ahead of planned family reunions of people from the two countries, Seoul said Tuesday.

"No agenda was set prior to this meeting," Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry said. "But we expect that there will be comprehensive dialogue on the smooth operation of these family reunions, holding the family reunions on a regular basis and other important areas of interest."

The talks will start Wednesday morning at the Panmunjom Peace House, which is on the South's side of the heavily militarized border, Kim said.

Pyongyang said last week it may back out of the reunions of the families -- who were separated by the Korean War in the 1950s -- if South Korean forces participate in annual joint military exercises with the United States later this month.

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The reunions of about 200 people -- 100 from each country -- are scheduled to take place between February 20 and 25 at a resort on the North's side of the heavily militarized border.

The annual military drills, which are due to start on February 24, anger the North Korean regime, which says it views them as a prelude to an invasion. Last year, Pyongyang's threatening rhetoric reached alarming levels during the exercises, heightening tensions in the region.

South Korea and the United States have rejected the North's calls for this year's joint drills to be called off.

In September, North Korea canceled a previous round of family reunions with only a few days notice, accusing Seoul of souring ties between the two countries.

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