South, North Korea remove propaganda loudspeakers as ties thaw

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North and South Korea have begun removing loudspeakers used to broadcast competing propaganda messages across its shared border, as ties between the rival states continue to warm up following a breakthrough meeting of their leaders late last month.

South Korean defence ministry personnel on Tuesday started to remove the loudspeakers installed in the front line of Paju in front of journalists – the first action Seoul has taken following the historic meeting on April 27.

The defence ministry also told the South Korean news agency, Yonhap, that its North Korean counterpart had also begun dismantling its loudspeakers on the other side of the border earlier in the day

It did not say how long it will take to dismantle the loudspeakers installed in at least 40 locations along the border. 

For years, South Korea has been using sound equipment to broadcast anti-Pyongyang messages. 

South Korea’s use of the loudspeakers became a source of irritation in the past, with North Korea threatening artillery strikes against the equipment unless they were switched off.

At some point during decades of the military face-off between the rival Koreas, the speakers were either turned off or removed as their ties improved, only to be turned on again as relations became sour.

Messages included a criticism of North Korea‘s communist system, news on South Korea and even K-pop music.

But South Korea switched it off anew before the meeting between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s Kim Jong-un

During the meeting between the two leaders, they agreed to stop hostile acts and committed to begin talks on denuclearisation and ending the Korea War.

Trump-Kim summit location

Aside from using loudspeakers, South Korea also distributed anti-Pyongyang leaflets using balloons in the past.

The unification ministry, which oversees inter-Korean relations, has pleaded for cooperation on the implementation of the commitments during the summit.

In the past, opponents of talks with North Korea, including dissidents and defectors, had tried to distribute messages across the border against Pyongyang.

“The suspension of scattering leaflets is of importance not only in easing military tensions but also protecting the security and safety of residents in border areas and preventing social conflicts,” Yonhap news quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

Meanwhile, talks continue between the Koreas and the United States as to the venue of the expected meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim later this month or early in June. 

On Monday, Trump suggested on social media that the demilitarised zone at Panmunjom between the two Koreas would be “more representative, important and lasting site” than a third country for his meeting with Kim.

Singapore is also in contention as a venue for the meeting, as it presents itself as a neutral option, with the city-state having a long-standing relationship with the US and also diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has also been suggested as a possible venue, as well as Geneva in Switzerland, the venue of many peace talks.

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