SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea halted anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the rivals’ tense border on Monday days before their leaders are to sit down for talks expected to focus on the North’s nuclear program, Seoul officials said.
Seoul had blasted propaganda messages and K-pop songs from border loudspeakers since the North’s fourth nuclear test in early 2016. Pyongyang quickly matched Seoul’s campaign with its own border broadcasts and launches of balloons carrying anti-South leaflets across the border.
South Korea, however, turned off its broadcasts to try to ease military tensions and establish an environment for peaceful talks, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
It said Seoul hopes its action would lead to both sides stopping mutual slander and propaganda activities. Yonhap news agency reported unspecified North Korean broadcasts were sporadically heard in the South on Monday morning. South Korean defense officials said they couldn’t immediately confirm the status of the North’s broadcasts.
The move came amid a recent thaw of animosities, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trying to reach out to Seoul and Washington in recent months after conducting his country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test and three long-range missile test-launches last year.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are to meet at a border village on Friday in the rivals’ third-ever summit talks. Kim is to hold separate summit talks with President Donald Trump in May or early June in what would be the first North Korea-U.S. summit talks.
Kim has said he was willing to place his nuclear program up for negotiations. But it was unclear how serious disarmament steps he would offer during the two sets of the summit talks. U.S. officials have said they want to the North to take complete disarmament measures.
North Korea said Saturday it would close its nuclear testing facility and suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. But the country stopped short of suggesting it has any intention of giving up its nuclear weapons or scale back its production of missiles and their related component parts.
Trump nonetheless tweeted Sunday that the North has “agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, traveled to North Korea on Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the meeting. Pompeo’s trip was a clear indication that preparations for the North-U.S. summit were under way though many U.S. and other foreign experts had doubts.