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SKorea accepts NKorean proposal for talks

January 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
South Korea on Thursday accepted a North Korean proposal to hold high level defense talks. The announcement comes a day after U.S. and Chinese leaders called for better communication between the Koreas.Both sides are hoping to put aside military and political tensions which have escalated into violence in recent months.

The talks could lay the groundwork for a resumption of broader international talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs. Lower-level defense talks last year foundered over the issue of the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in disputed waters.

The agenda this time should include North Korean assurances that it will take "responsible measures" over the ship sinking and another deadly incident last year and not provoke further tensions, said Lee Jong-joo, a spokeswoman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

North Korea launched artillery at a South Korean island in November in an attack that killed four people. It denies, however, attacking the navy ship that sank in March, killing 46 sailors.

Inter-Korean relations have been complicated by a power transition under way in the North, where leader Kim Jong Il is believed to be grooming his youngest son Kim Jong Un to succeed him. Some analysts say the ship sinking and the artillery attack were carried out to display the younger Kim's mettle to North Korea's military and bolster his legitimacy as the next leader.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.