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Two Koreas announce fifth round of talks

North-South talks have been making increasing headway since the historic summit in Pyongyang last year  

SEOUL, South Korea -- North and South Korea will hold a fifth round of talks in Seoul from March 13 -16 to discuss a wide range of inter-Korean issues.

The announcement of the talks, by South Korea's Unification Ministry Wednesday, comes on the same day the U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean Kim Dae-jung meet in Washington.

"We hope to discuss with the North various issues including building up military confidence and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's proposed visit to Seoul," a Unification Ministry spokesman said in Seoul.

He said North Korean Senior Cabinet Counsellor Jon Kum-jin sent a telegram on Wednesday to South Korea's Unification Minister Park Jae-kyu saying Pyongyang agreed to Seoul's earlier proposal to open the talks next Tuesday.

In a separate development, South Korea's Culture and Tourism Minister Kim Han-gil is set to visit Pyongyang on March 10 to discuss new inter-Korean tourism projects and sports exchanges.

Tour visits

A key issue for discussion would be the feasibility of tours by South Koreans to Kaesong, a North Korean city just above the heavily-guarded border separating the two Koreas.

Although South Koreans are currently allowed to visit a secluded mountain resort in the North through ferry tours operated by the South's Hyundai Group, visitors are not allowed to stray beyond a strictly monitored route.

The two Koreas also plan to discuss the possibility of sending a single team to an upcoming table tennis competition in Japan, the ministry said.

Four rounds of ministerial-level meetings focused on economic cooperation and family reunions have been held since South Korean President Kim Dae-jung held a historic summit with the North's Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang last June.

During their meeting the two leaders agreed to make concerted efforts to end half century of confrontation.

The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armed truce rather than a peace accord.

Kim, Bush to discuss Korean reconciliation

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