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(2nd LD) Koreas to resume high-level talks on easing tension

All Headlines 14:10 August 23, 2015

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with experts' view, other details; CHANGES haeadline; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea were to resume rare high-level talks Sunday aimed at resolving the ongoing military crisis, with both sides maintaining full combat readiness along the border.

The Koreas had nightlong negotiations at the truce village of Panmunjom through early Sunday morning on "how to resolve the situation that was recently created, and how to improve inter-Korean relations," South Korea's presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters.

The South's National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin plans to meet Hwang Pyong-so, the top political officer of the North's military, there again at 3 p.m. Sunday, he added. Hong Yong-pyo, Seoul's point man on Pyongyang, and his northern counterpart, Kim Yang-gon, will join.

The hourslong pause in the talks is intended to "review each other's position," Min said.

The North remained at what it called a "semi-war state," readying its 76.2-millimeter artillery near the border, according to military officials here.

The South also continued anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts from about a dozen border areas.

On Thursday, North Korea gave a 48-hour ultimatum that the South remove all loudspeakers and stop the broadcast campaign, threatening to launch "a strong military action" otherwise. North Korea also warned Friday that it is prepared to engage in an "all-out war."

But experts here were cautiously optimistic of the results of the negotiations.

"I think the outlook is not that bad. At least a deal between South and North Korea can be reached to reduce military tensions," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk University. "(Inter-Korean) contact this time is meaningful in that it is cooling tension for a moment."

Kim Young-soo, a professor at Sogang University, said the two sides have effectively ended the latest standoff by holding a high-profile meeting.

"If one side uses fire, it will be fully to blame," he said.

Propaganda broadcasts have become a bone of contention between the two Koreas after South Korea resumed them earlier this month for the first time in 11 years.

South Korea took the measure in retaliation against North Korea for a recent land mine attack that maimed two South Korean soldiers. South Korea accused the North of planting the mines inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, a charge denied by North Korea.

North Korea views the psychological warfare critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as an insult to its dignity. The isolated country is also concerned that an influx of outside information could pose a threat to Kim.

Tension between the Koreas has risen further since Thursday's exchange of artillery fire.

The North fired one artillery shell across the border in the afternoon before firing several more rounds later in apparent anger over South Korea's resumption of the broadcasts. South Korea fired back dozens of shells.

The North later claimed it didn't start Thursday's exchange of fire with the South and accused Seoul of fabricating the allegations that the communist nation fired first.

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