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Koreas Meet in Senior-Level Confab After Months of Tension

Senior North Korean official Won Tong Yon, left, shakes hands with South Korean deputy national security adviser Kim Kyou-hyun, right, before their Wednesday meeting in Panmunjom, South Korea. The meeting between the two officials represented the highest level of contact between the two Koreas since 2007.

Senior North Korean official Won Tong Yon, left, shakes hands with South Korean deputy national security adviser Kim Kyou-hyun, right, before their Wednesday meeting in Panmunjom, South Korea. The meeting between the two officials represented the highest level of contact between the two Koreas since 2007. (South Korean Unification Ministry photo/Getty Images)

Seoul and Pyongyang on Wednesday held senior-level talks that dealt with a range of issues, including planned U.S.-South Korea military drills.

The rare discussions at the truce village of Panmunjom represented the highest level of contact between the two Koreas since 2007, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

A South Korean Unification Ministry official said delegates from the two nations exchanged views in a "sincere" way on a range of matters. He suggested that Pyongyang renewed its opposition to the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills with the United States, which are to begin later this month.

Seoul and Washington have said they are committed to moving forward with the drills. The involvement of U.S. nuclear-capable bombers in last year's exercises infuriated Pyongyang, which responded with preparations to carry out ballistic-missile strikes on the two allies.

North Korea a few days ago sought the Wednesday meeting unexpectedly, following a number of signals to Seoul about its interest in improving relations. Interactions have remained fairly tense since 2010, when two Pyongyang attacks on South Korea killed dozens of people.

"We approach today's talks with an intention of probing for opportunities to open a new relationship on the Korean Peninsula, said Kim Kyu-hyun, a deputy national security adviser to the South Korean president, in remarks to reporters before he traveled to Panmunjom to head up the South Korean delegation, the New York Times reported.

China on Tuesday applauded the two Koreas for their engagement and urged follow-on action, Yonhap separately reported.

A delegation of Chinese officials traveled to North Korea last week -- the first Chinese diplomats to do so following the surprise December purge of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle, Yonhap reported. The execution of Jang Song Thaek precipitated regional concerns about the stability of the Kim regime, which were it to abruptly collapse could lead to reduced security around the country's nuclear sites.

An unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing said he believed the Chinese delegation included officials involved in the long-frozen multinational talks aimed at North Korean denuclearization.

The North Korean nuclear impasse will be one of the issues that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discusses with this South Korean opposite when he visits Seoul on Thursday, according to Yonhap.

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