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North, South Korea agree to huddle

SEOUL, South Korea -- North and South Korea on Friday agreed to hold talks next week as part of a previous deal aimed at improving ties in the wake of a military standoff in August.

The talks among working-level officials at a border village next Thursday are aimed at preparing for higher-level negotiations the rivals have agreed to hold, according to Pyongyang's state media and Seoul's Unification Ministry.

Resuming high-level talks was among a set of agreements the sides struck after they averted the bloodshed they had threatened each other with over land mine blasts blamed on Pyongyang that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

As part of those agreements, the Koreas last month arranged reunions of families separated by war for the first time since early 2014.

Despite the reunions, there are continuing animosities between the Koreas, which share the world's most heavily fortified border. The 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

South Korean officials said they proposed working-level talks three times before North Korea offered to meet at the northern side of the border village of Panmunjom next Thursday. Later Friday, South Korea's Unification Ministry issued a statement saying it told the North it had agreed to its proposal.

"Sometimes these talks break down before they even start over what level to send, so this sounds like a very pragmatic and straightforward approach," the Reuters news agency quotes a North Korea expert as saying.

"Now we're back on again, the game's afoot," John Delury, of Yonsei University in Seoul, remarked to Reuters.

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