Ahead of an inter-Korean summit, South Korea has turned off giant loudspeakers on the heavily-armed border with the North, which were used to broadcast propaganda messages to North Korean soldiers and civilians.
The South’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that it switched off all batteries of the loudspeakers on Monday for the first time in two years, to help “ease military tensions and create a peaceful mood for the meeting” between President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un on Friday.
“We hope that our move today will result in South and North Korea ending mutual slandering and propaganda against each other and creating a peaceful new beginning,” the ministry said.
It did not specify if they would be restarted after the summit.
Seoul has dozens of loudspeakers along the border area, known as the Demilitarized Zone, through which it blast everything against North Koreans, ranging from South Korean pop music to criticism of the Pyongyang government.
Back in 2015, Kim ordered his front-line military units to go on a “semi-war state” after the two Koreas exchanged rocket and artillery fire. He ordered the military to prepare to attack South Korean loudspeakers unless they stopped blaring propaganda.
The South halted them in 2015, but restarted them again in January 2016 after the North conducted its forth nuclear test.
The North has its own loudspeakers across the border. In February, it lowered the volume of the speakers after the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea’s Pyeongchang.
A Defense Ministry official said he could not verify whether the North has also stopped its broadcasts.
Seoul’s latest move follows a decision by Pyongyang on Saturday to stop its nuclear and missile tests and scrap a nuclear test in favor of pursuing economic growth and peace ahead of Kim’s summits with Moon and US President Donald Trump.
The North is currently under a raft of crippling United Nations sanctions over its military program.
Trump bent on keeping up pressure
In a Twitter post on Sunday, Trump called Kim’s decision “good news for the world,” and said he was “looking forward” to meeting with him in a summit that is increasingly likely to happen in the next few months.
Trump, however, posted another message, in which he warned that there is “a long way from conclusion on North Korea.” He wrote that “maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell.”
Despite all the North Korean overtures, Trump is said to be unwilling to make significant concessions on anti-Pyongyang economic sanctions.
Citing his administration officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Trump will call on Kim to quickly dismantle its nuclear arsenal when the two meet.
The president does not seem to be willing to grant Pyongyang “substantial concessions, such as lifting sanctions, until North Korea has substantially dismantled its nuclear programs,” a senior official was quoted as saying.
“If North Korea is willing to move quickly to denuclearize, then the sky is the limit. All sorts of good things can happen,” the official added.
In the address on Saturday, when Kim announced an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, the North Korean leader asserted that he would not be giving up nuclear weapons.
He explained that the possession of nuclear weapons was “the firm guarantee by which our descendants can enjoy the most dignified and happiest life in the world.”