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Rival Koreas set for first official talks in over two years

SEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korea will meet for working-level discussions at a border village on Sunday, South Korea's Unification Ministry said, in what will be the first official talks between the rivals in more than two years.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have eased in the past month, having run high for several weeks after the United Nations toughened sanctions against North Korea following its third nuclear test in February.

In another sign of easing tensions, the North reopened a Red Cross hotline with South Korea on Friday.

Sunday's talks will set the mood for a ministerial level meeting scheduled for next week. The two Koreas have not held talks since February 2011.

Pyongyang agreed on Saturday to the South's proposal to meet at the Panmunjom truce village, two days after it had proposed discussions to normalize commercial projects, including a shuttered joint industrial zone.

In early April, North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers at the Kaesong Industrial Zone and suspended operations. South Korea pulled out all of its workers from the zone in early May.

After Pyongyang first proposed talks this week, Seoul responded by inviting the North to cabinet level talks on June 12 in Seoul as a way to discuss a range of issues including commercial projects and families split during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The weekend talks come as Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama have begun their summit meeting on Friday in California. During the meeting, the two leaders said they would seek ways to strengthen relations on challenges including North Korea.

(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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