The two Koreas are to resume high-level talks in years, in a possible sign that the North wants a quick improvement in ties and the resumption of lucrative cooperative projects.
South Korean officials announced on Tuesday that North Korea requested to hold the meeting on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The meeting will be held at the Panmunjom “truce village” on the heavily guarded border between North and South.
The meeting would be the highest between the Koreas in years. They held a series of high-level meetings in 2007, including a second summit of their leaders.
Wednesday’s meeting has no fixed agenda, but the two sides are expected to discuss how to make the reunions run smoothly and whether to pursue them regularly, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.
North Korea is also expected to demand that the South agree to restart a lucrative joint tourism project in North Korea, increase humanitarian aid and downsize the upcoming military drills with the US, said Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University in South Korea.
“This announcement comes as something of a surprise from the southern side,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, who was reporting from Seoul.
“What’s most interesting about this is just how senior the South Korean delegation would be,” our correspondent said.
North Korea has launched a recent charm offensive after raising tensions last spring with repeated threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington.
Later this month, the two Koreas are to hold reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War for the first time in more than three years.
North Korea canceled planned reunions at the last minute in September, and has recently threatened to scrap this month’s reunions because of upcoming US-South Korean military drills, which it claims are preparations for an invasion.
But outside analysts said it was unlikely that North Korea will halt the reunions this time because it needed improved ties with South Korea to help attract foreign investment and aid.
The planned family reunion next month is set at the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang.
Technically at war
President Park Geun-hye’s deputy national security adviser will lead the South’s delegation of defence and security officials.
The North’s delegation will be headed by Won Tong Yon, a senior official at the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s United Front Department that handles affairs with the South.
The ties between the two were strained early last year when South backed a UN-sponsored sanction in the wake of nuclear test by the North.
The joint Kaesong industrial complex, which employs more than 50,000 North Koreans, remained shut for about five months due to the diplomatic tensions.
The two Koreas remain technically at war as the Korean war ended with an armistice signed at Panmunjom, rather than a peace treaty.