SEOUL, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- North Korea finally agreed to working-level talks with the South after turning down proposals from Seoul three times since an agreement in late August defused tensions at the border.
The talks are to be held in Kaesong, North Korea, on Nov. 26, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry. Pyongyang's state-controlled media outlet KCNA reported the meeting was confirmed, and that the North had proposed the talks, and South Korea had agreed through the inter-Korea communication channel at Panmunjom, Yonhap reported.
South Korea said it would send Kim Ki-woong, director-general of the Unification Ministry's Special Office for Inter-Korean Dialogue, to meet with Hwang Chol, a high-level official with Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.
Seoul previously had made preliminary contact with an offer of talks on Sept. 21, then made similar offers on Sept. 24 and Oct. 30, but North Korea did not respond, and at one point had said the Pyongyang leadership had banned them from accepting the messages.
According to Seoul, North Korea had said the South's proposal rang hollow, citing such "provocations" as helium balloon launches by defector organizations, the discussion of a potential North Korean Human Rights Act in South Korean parliament, and criticism of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
South Korean analysts have said the talks are a step forward but raised concerns that the meeting could end without a resolution, as was the case with working-level talks that took place in June 2013.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at South Korea's University of North Korean Studies, said it would not be easy to coordinate a bilateral agenda, and that the two sides are likely to be at odds over how to address the North Korea nuclear issue. North Korea also is interested in restarting the Mount Kumgang tourist project, Yang said, and Pyongyang could propose the lifting of the May 24 South Korea economic sanctions.
South Korean news network YTN reported the North could also raise the issue of joint U.S.-South Korea military drills. The exercise, Key Resolve, is scheduled to begin in late February 2016.