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Originally published Friday, January 24, 2014 at 7:04 AM

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North Korea says it will resume reunions of war-divided families

North Korea on Friday agreed to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the latest in a series of charm offensives from a country that was threatening South Korea and the U.S. with nuclear war almost a year ago.


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SEOUL, South Korea —

North Korea on Friday agreed to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the latest in a series of charm offensives from a country that was threatening South Korea and the U.S. with nuclear war almost a year ago.

Seoul welcomed the decision, which came on the heels of an offer rejected earlier to hold the emotional reunions for the first time in more than three years. South Korea has so far been wary of the North's larger outreach, noting that Pyongyang has previously followed such calls for detente with provocations.

The charm is seen by many analysts as an attempt to improve ties to help win aid for Pyongyang's struggling economy. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to boost his impoverished people's standard of living, even as he pursues a nuclear weapons and missile program that has been condemned by his neighbors and the United States.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which is responsible for cross-border relations, said in a statement that Pyongyang proposed holding the reunions sometime after next week's Lunar New Year's Day and said that the South could choose the date.

Pyongyang last year cancelled reunion plans at the last minute, injuring ties that had slowly begun to improve after a torrent of threatening rhetoric from the North in March and April that followed international condemnation of Pyongyang's third nuclear test, in February, and U.S.-South Korean annual war drills. Those drills are set to resume again in coming weeks, and there's been worry in Seoul that another outburst from Pyongyang will follow.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said that Pyongyang is unchanged in its stand to "alleviate even a bit (of) the pain" caused by the division of the Korean Peninsula through the humanitarian program.

The fighting ended six decades ago with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically in a state of war.



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