Instead of going to war, North and South Korea have agreed to hold family reunions

South Korean army soldiers ride on a truck near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.
South Korean army soldiers ride on a truck near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.
Image: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
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After three days of negotiations, North and South Korea have reached an agreement to end one of the peninsula’s tensest military standoffs in years. The impasse began on Aug. 20 when the two Koreas exchanged fire after the north began shelling at a set of loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang broadcasts from across the border.

Talks, at the request of North Korea, ended in the early morning hours of Aug. 24, with North Korea expressing “regret” for land mine explosions that injured two South Korean soldiers. (South Korean president Park Geun-hye had demanded an apology from Pyongyang.) The incident prompted South Korea to begin its propaganda barrage, a method it had not used in a decade, earlier this month.

South Korea says it will turn off its loudspeakers Tuesday at noon, local time. Once that is done, North Korea will end its “semi-state of war.” “Both sides decided to develop North-South relations and end the military standoff,” South Korea’s National Security adviser Kim Kwan-jin said at a press briefing. The two governments also agreed to hold reunions for aging relatives separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. The reunions are held periodically when relations inter-Korean relations are on an upswing.

Before the agreement, few observers expected wider-scale conflict but escalation also appeared increasingly likely. South Korea and the US flew fighter jets close to the border to simulate a bombing run over the weekend. North Korea meanwhile claimed its military had entered ”full readiness of war,” having deployed amphibious landing crafts, submarines and more artillery near the inter-Korean border. Some reports claimed Chinese military units had been spotted in Yanji, near its border with North Korea.