International

Propaganda loudspeakers removed from both sides of Korean border

North and South Korea have dismantled huge loudspeakers used to blast Cold War-style propaganda across their tense border, as South Korea's President asked the United Nations to observe the North's planned closing of its nuclear test site.

Key points:

  • South Korean soldiers dismantled the speakers and moved them from the border
  • North Korea reportedly took their speakers down earlier in the day
  • The equipment was used to blast music and propaganda messages

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.

South Korean soldiers disassembled loudspeakers in multiple frontline areas in the presence of journalists before pulling them away from the border, the Defence Ministry said.

A South Korea military officer said 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-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.

A reporter prepares a news report as South Korean soldiers dismantle loudspeakers.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has suspended nuclear and missile tests and placed his nuclear program up for negotiation, but scepticism lingers about how serious his offer is and what disarmament steps he would eventually take.

His sincerity will be tested during his planned meeting in several weeks with US President Donald Trump, in what would be the first North Korea-US summit talks since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

During a telephone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said he wanted the UN to observe the closure of North Korea's nuclear test site.

Mr Moon also asked the UN to formally declare its support for his summit declaration with Mr Kim. Mr Guterres responded that he will try to contribute to the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to Mr Moon's office.

Some experts downplayed the closure of the site, saying the six underground nuclear explosions that have been conducted there may have made it too unstable for more testing.

Mr Kim denied such views, saying the site has two additional underground tunnels that could be used for new tests.

AP

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