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North and South Korean officials were set to meet on Saturday, the South said, raising hopes for an end to the standoff that put both sides on the brink of outright war.
The meeting — scheduled for half-an-hour after North Korea's ultimatum demanding that the South halt its loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border or face military action — will be held in Panmunjom village, a neutral zone on their tense border. Kim Kyu Hyun, deputy director of national security for South Korea's presidential office, made the announcement of the meeting on South Korean television.
South Korea's national security adviser and unification minister will meet with Hwang Pyong-so, the top military aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and an senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs at 6 p.m. Seoul time (5.00 a.m. ET), South Korean officials said.
The gathering is one of the highest-level meetings the two countries have held in years.
North Korea is technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and declared a "quasi-state of war" in front-line areas and set the deadline for Seoul to halt the broadcasts from loudspeakers placed along the border.
"The situation on the Korean peninsula is now inching close to the brink of a war due to the reckless provocations made by the south Korean military war hawks," the North's KCNA news agency had said earlier.
The South had said the broadcasts would continue unless the North accepted responsibility for landmine explosions this month in the demilitarized zone that wounded two South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang denies it planted the mines.