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Koreas agree to 1st family reunions in 1 year

SEOUL, South Korea — Red Cross officials from the two Koreas agreed to hold reunions for families separated by the Korean War, an official said Friday, amid mixed signals from North Korea on easing tensions.

The two Koreas will hold the family meetings from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 at a hotel and reunion center at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said.

They also agreed to another round of Red Cross talks in the North’s border city of Kaesong on Oct. 26-27 to discuss ways to hold reunions regularly as well as other unspecified humanitarian issues, the ministry said.

Millions of families were separated following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two countries technically at war. There are no mail, telephone or e-mail exchanges between ordinary citizens across the Korean border.

So far, more than 20,800 separated families have been reunited through brief face-to-face meetings or by video following a landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000.

The reunions, which have not been held for a year, could help restore calm between North and South Korea. Their relations have been especially tense since the March sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors. An international investigation blamed the attack on North Korea, but Pyongyang denied involvement.

Still, the North warned during separate military talks with South Korea on Thursday that it might fire artillery on South Korean activists who disperse anti-North leaflets.

The North warned that its artillery units were "getting fully ready to strike the spotted centers for scattering leaflets," North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency reported late Thursday.

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