SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The rival Koreas dismantled huge loudspeakers used to blare Cold War-style propaganda across their tense border on Tuesday, as South Korea’s president asked the United Nations to observe the North’s planned closing of its nuclear test site.
The dismantling of dozens of loudspeakers was in line with an agreement on reconciliation by the leaders of the Koreas at their historic summit last Friday. It is still unclear if such measures can bring permanent peace because no major breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear standoff was produced at the summit.
South Korean soldiers disassembled loudspeakers in multiple front-line areas in the presence of journalists before pulling them away from the border, the Defence Ministry said.
A South Korea military officer said later Tuesday that North Korea had also begun taking down its propaganda loudspeakers earlier in the day. He requested anonymity, citing department rules.
Both Koreas had turned off the propaganda broadcasts along the 248-kilometre (154-mile) -long border last week before the summit.
They had restarted their propaganda warfare in early 2016 when tensions rose sharply after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. South Korea broadcast K-pop songs as well as criticism of the North’s abysmal human rights conditions, world news and weather forecasts. The North broadcast anti-South messages and praises of its own political system.
North Korea is extremely sensitive to any outside criticism of its system, and most of its 24 million people are not allowed access to foreign TV and radio programs. In 2014, North Korean soldiers opened fire after South Korean activists sent anti-North leaflets over the border with large balloons, prompting South Korea to return fire. There were no reports of casualties.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suspended nuclear and missile tests and placed his nuclear program up for negotiation, but skepticism lingers about how serious his offer is and what disarmament steps he would eventually take. Some experts say Kim’s sincerity will be tested during his planned meeting in several weeks with U.S. President Donald Trump, in what would be the first North Korea-U.S. summit talks since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Trump said Monday he likes the idea of going to the southern side of Panmunjom, the location of the Korean summit, to meet Kim, though he said Singapore was also under consideration.
Ahead of that meeting, the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China are to meet next Wednesday in Tokyo for a regular trilateral summit that is expected to focus on North Korea’s nuclear program and other regional issues.
During their meeting last Friday, Kim told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he would shut down his country’s only known nuclear test site and allow outside experts and journalists to watch the process.