SEOUL: North Korea agreed Tuesday to hold talks with South Korea this week, apparently signalling a wish for better relations a day after it test-fired short-range missiles.

Pyongyang accepted Seoul's request for talks on flood prevention on Wednesday and discussions on humanitarian issues including family reunions on Friday, Seoul's unification ministry said in a statement.

It comes after the North Monday fired five missiles off its east coast, the first launch for more than three months.

There are signs it is preparing later Tuesday to launch more short-range missiles off its west coast, Yonhap news agency reported.

South Korean officials normally describe the launches as part of regular military exercises, although they are sometimes timed to make a political point.

The North is under pressure to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks that it quit in April.

For more than a year Pyongyang was bitterly hostile to the South's conservative government, which scrapped a "sunshine" aid and engagement policy with its communist neighbour.

Relations were also strained by the North's nuclear and missile tests in the spring, but it began making peace overtures in August.

Seoul had sought talks on ways to prevent floods in a cross-border river after six people were drowned in the South.

The North on September 6 released millions of tonnes of water from a dam across the Imjin river, sweeping away the South Koreans camping or fishing downstream.

The incident stirred anger in the South and threatened to damage the newly improving relations.

The North said a sudden surge in the dam's water level prompted an emergency release. The South's Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young has said there was no evidence of a deliberate "water attack."

The South also proposed holding Red Cross talks to discuss humanitarian issues such as more reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 war.

The reunion programme was on hold for almost two years as ties worsened, but the North recently gave the go-ahead and hundreds of separated relatives held tearful reunions two weeks ago.

In recent weeks the North has also freed five South Korean detainees, eased curbs on the operations of a joint industrial estate and sent envoys for talks with President Lee Myung-Bak.

Last week the North told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao it was willing to return to the six-party talks, but only after direct negotiations with the United States to improve "hostile relations."

Wen has said Pyongyang hopes not only to improve relations with the United States but also with Japan and South Korea.

Washington has said it is open to bilateral talks but only in order to bring the North back to six-party negotiations, which are hosted by China and also group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.