Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

North and South Korea are holding high-level talks aimed at defusing tensions and preventing an exchange of artillery at the border from leading to a full-scale conflict between the bitter rivals.

The announcement of talks came hours before the expiration of an ultimatum set by Pyongyang, which threatened to go to war unless the South stopped blaring propaganda over loud speakers into North Korean territory. The talks on Saturday began at 6 p.m. local time and last for several hours. They are scheduled to resume at 3 p.m. Sunday, Yonhap says.

The New York Times reports that the meeting, which reportedly took place at the border village of Panmunjom, "would include top policy makers from both sides: Kim Kwan-jin, President Park [Guen-hye's] senior national security adviser, and Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, North Korea's most powerful military officer after Kim Jong-un, the country's supreme leader, who holds the rank of marshal."

The Wall Street Journaladd: "North Korea proposed the talks on Friday, according to South Korea's presidential office. The North Korean side initially said only Kim Yang Gon would attend, but agreed to send Mr. Hwang due to a request from the South Korean side, the office said."

According to The Associated Press: "The closed-door meeting at Panmunjom, where the armistice ending fighting in the Korean War was agreed to in 1953, began early Saturday evening, shortly after a deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle loudspeakers broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda at their border, said an official from South Korea's Unification Ministry. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down."

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