South Korea says it has accepted a North Korean offer, made earlier Thursday morning, to hold high-level defense talks in a bid to defuse tensions on the divided peninsula.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said Thursday that the agenda for the talks should include North Korean assurances that it will act responsibly and not provoke tensions in the future, according to media reports. South Korea blames the North for two deadly attacks last year.
Seoul was responding to a message hours earlier from the North's defence minister, Kim Yong-Chun, to his counterpart in the South, Kim Kwan-Jin.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed in talks in Washington on the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and said that communication between the Koreas is a key element for any progress.
Speaking at a joint press conference at the White House with Hu on Wednesday, Obama said: "I told President Hu that we appreciated China's role in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. And we agreed that North Korea must avoid further provocations. We agreed that the paramount goal must be complete denuclearization of the peninsula."
South Korea, which had rejected recent previous North Korean calls for unconditional talks as insincere, also proposed separate discussions between high-ranking government officials on nuclear issues.
In a statement, the Unification Ministry — which handles cross-border affairs — said it would come to the talks "on condition North Korea takes responsible measures concerning the sinking of the Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong island and promise[s] to prevent any recurrence."
"Separate high-level talks are absolutely necessary to discuss denuclearisation," it added.