South Korean loudspeakers silenced for good as relations with North thaw

South Korea is to remove the loudspeakers, which regularly broadcast propaganda aimed at the North, on Tuesday, the South’s Defense Ministry said.

On Sunday, North Korea has said it will align its time zone with that of the South by putting clocks forward by half an hour. Pyongyang had changed the time zone in 2015, criticizing it as a relic from Japanese colonial rule.

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Both moves are seen as tentative steps of reconciliation after leaders Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un met in a Korean border village last Friday.

Kim and Moon shaking hands (Reuters/Korea Summit Press Pool)

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The historic meeting produced a declaration, in which both sides agreed to end to hostile acts, further family reunions and achieve a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

South Korea had already turned off its loudspeakers ahead of Friday’s meeting, North Korea responded by halting its own broadcasts.

“We see this as the easiest first step to build military trust,” South Korean defense ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said. “We are expecting the North’s implementation.”

China visit

Meanwhile, Kim is set to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Pyongyang on Wednesday and Thursday, Beijing announced on Monday.

China is North Korea’s only major ally, but recent economic sanctions imposed by Beijing due to Pyongyang’s missile tests had seen trade between the two countries plummet, leading some observers to suggest that that was what triggered the North’s decision to open up diplomatically.

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Last month, Kim made his first visit to Beijing since taking power six years ago, followed by the historic meeting with Moon, which was only his second summit with a foreign leader since he took office in late 2011.

Meeting with Trump in May or June

Kim is expected to meet US President Donald Trump in May or June, too, although no date has been set.

The North Korean leader recently said he would stop nuclear and ballistic missile testing and shut down a nuclear test site.

According to South Korean officials, Kim would be willing to give up his nuclear program if the United States commits to a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and a pledge not to attack the North.

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Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether the US would make such a promise, US National Security Adviser and hardliner John Bolton remained skeptical. “Well, we’ve heard this before…The North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource. What we want to see from them is evidence that it’s real and not just rhetoric.”

ng/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)