South Korea Agrees to Host Cabinet-Level Talks

South and North Korea agreed Wednesday to hold Cabinet-level talks in Seoul next week amid tension over the North's nuclear weapons development, South Korea said.

South Korea accepted the North's proposal to hold the talks on Jan. 21-24, a week later than suggested by South Korea, said Kim Jung-ro, a spokesman at the South's Unification Ministry.

South Korean officials have said they would use the talks to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

The Koreas have held eight rounds of Cabinet-level talks since a historic summit of their leaders in 2000.

The last round of talks was held in October, days after U.S. officials said that North Korea admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program using enriched uranium.

Cabinet-level talks are the highest channel of dialogue between the two sides.

Inter-Korean exchanges, which flourished after the 2000 summit, have slowed in recent months because of the nuclear standoff and other disputes.