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The 2 Koreas agree to hold military talks

[SEOUL] North and South Korea agreed to hold military talks, a joint statement said after the two Koreas engaged in formal dialogue on Tuesday for the first time in more than two years.

The two countries, which are still technically at war, said they will seek to resolve issues via dialogue and negotiations.

North Korea also decided to send a high-ranking delegation and a cheering squad to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, but the head of its delegation in the talks on Tuesday expressed negative sentiment over the mention of denuclearisation during Tuesday's discussions, the South Korean government said in a statement.

The talks are being closely watched by world leaders eager for any sign of a reduction in tension on the Korean peninsula, amid rising fears over North Korea's missile launches and development of nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

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South Korea has unilaterally banned several North Korean officials from entry in response to Pyongyang's ramped-up missile and nuclear tests, held despite international pressure.

However, some South Korean officials have said they see the Olympics as a possible opportunity for easing tension.

Foreign ministry spokesman Roh Kyu-deok said Seoul would consider whether it needed to take "prior steps", together with the U.N. Security Council and other relevant countries, to help the North Koreans visit for the Olympics.

At Tuesday's talks, the first since December 2015, Seoul proposed inter-Korean military discussions to reduce tension on the peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday, South Korea's vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung said.

The North has finished technical work to restore a military hotline with South Korea, he added, with normal communications set to resume on Wednesday. But Mr Chun did not immediately say what information would be transferred along the hotline.

The North severed communications in February 2016, following the South's decision to shut down a jointly run industrial park in the North.

REUTERS