Korea breakthrough as Seoul agrees to talks with North

South Korea agreed on Thursday to a North Korean offer of high-level military talks, a major breakthrough in the crisis on the peninsula that improves the prospect of renewed aid-for-disarmament negotiations.

Hours after President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao stood shoulder to shoulder in Washington decrying the North’s nuclear aspirations, Pyongyang bowed to Seoul’s demands for talks about two deadly attacks last year.

Washington and Beijing have argued that North-South dialogue is a prerequisite to a resumption of six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

In 2009, Pyongyang walked out of the aid-for-disarmament talks, under which it previously agreed to abandon its nuclear programs, pronouncing them dead.

A South Korean defense ministry spokesman said it had not been decided whether the inter-Korean talks would be held at the ministerial level, as suggested by Pyongyang in a dispatch to the South Korean capital.

A unification ministry official said Pyongyang had ceded to South Korean demands to specifically discuss the sinking of one of Seoul’s warships in March, which killed 46 sailors, and the North’s attack on an island in November, which killed four people.