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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pyongyang Assents to Korea Talks

SEOUL -- North Korea agreed Wednesday to hold talks next week to prepare for a first-ever summit meeting between the presidents of the two Koreas, a move hailed as a positive sign for easing nuclear tensions on the peninsula. In Brussels, meanwhile, the United States and Russia agreed on a plan for sanctions against the North if it fails to freeze its nuclear program, a U.S. official said Wednesday. North Korean Prime Minister Kang Song-san sent a message to his South Korean counterpart, Lee Yung-dug, saying the North would accept a Southern proposal to hold preparatory talks at the border village of Panmunjom on June 28. Kang said in his message the North would send a three-member team to discuss the summit. North Korea's Radio Pyongyang, monitored in Tokyo, confirmed the North had accepted the proposal. A Seoul government spokesman called the North's response a "positive sign" for easing tension in the peninsula. "We had been a little bit skeptical of North Korea's intentions. Judging from the North's quick and sincere response to our offer, the North seems to be truly interested in the summit," he said. Presidents of the two Koreas have not met since the peninsula was divided in 1945, after Japan's World War II defeat ended Tokyo's 35-year occupation. In an effort seemed aimed at exerting new pressure on Pyongyang to make good its assurances, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced they had agreed a common approach to sanctions. "We have developed a common approach towards a sanctions resolution which will integrate a possible international conference as well," Christopher told a joint news conference with Kozyrev at the Russian Embassy in Brussels. Kozyrev said: "Our positions have become closer and almost coincide on nearly all aspects," adding that U.S. and Russian UN envoys should be able to complete work on the proposal very soon in New York.