SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea halted the propaganda broadcasts it blares across the border at North Korea on Monday ahead of their first summit in a decade, as U.S. President Donald Trump cautioned the nuclear crisis on the peninsula was a long way from being resolved.
North and South Korea are in the final stages of preparations for a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday.
Ahead of the summit, North Korea announced it would halt nuclear and missile tests and said it was scrapping its nuclear test site to instead pursue economic growth and peace.
“North Korea’s decision to freeze its nuclear programme is a significant decision for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a regular meeting at the Blue House on Monday.
“It is a green light that raises the chances of positive outcomes at the North’s summits with South Korea and the United States. If North Korea goes the path of complete denuclearisation starting from this, then a bright future for North Korea can be guaranteed.”
The South’s propaganda broadcasts were stopped at midnight, the defence ministry said, without specifying whether they would resume after the Kim-Moon summit.
“We hope this decision will lead both Koreas to stop mutual criticism and propaganda against each other and also contribute in creating peace and a new beginning,” the South Korean defence ministry said about the decision to halt the broadcasts.
It is the first time in more than two years the South Korean broadcasts, which include a mixture of news, South Korean pop music and criticism of the North Korean regime, have been stopped.
North Korea has its own propaganda loudspeakers at the border, but a defence ministry official said he could not verify whether the North had stopped its broadcasts.
The inter-Korean talks and a planned meeting between Kim and Trump in the coming weeks have raised hopes of an easing in tensions that reached a crescendo last year amid a flurry of North Korean missile tests and its largest nuclear test.
After initially welcoming Pyongyang’s statement on halting nuclear and missile tests, Trump sounded a more cautious note on Sunday.
“We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t – only time will tell,” Trump said on Twitter.
Still, South Korean companies with exposure to North Korea rallied after Pyongyang’s weekend announcement.
Shares of Good People and Shinwon Corp, which used to operate factories in North Korea’s Kaesong industrial region near the Demilitarized Zone, surged 8 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
China, North Korea’s main ally, also welcomed the North Korean announcement, but editorials in state-run media on Monday were tempered with notes of caution.
The China Daily, the official English-languages newspaper of the Chinese government, said the pledges conveyed the message that Kim will sit down for talks as the leader of a legitimate nuclear power.
“Negotiations about actual nuclear disarmament will likely prove arduous given such weapons are critical to Pyongyang’s sense of security. It will require ironclad security guarantees if it is to relinquish them.”
The Global Times, a hawkish tabloid newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said all parties “should cherish this hard-won state of affairs” and continue to make efforts toward peace and denuclearisation.
“Washington should not regard North Korea’s halt to nuclear and missile tests as a result of its maximum pressure,” the Global Times wrote.
“It must be attributed to multiple factors, one of which is that Pyongyang has mastered certain advanced nuclear technologies and successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of more than 10,000 km.”
The United States, through the United Nations, has pursued a series of tightening sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its access to foreign currency.
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Customs data on Monday showed China’s imports from North Korea fell 87 percent in the first three months of the year, while exports dropped 46 percent.
Tourism, dominated by Chinese visitors, remains a key export earner for North Korea. Chinese tourists have been involved in a major bus accident in North Korea and there are a large number of casualties, Chinese state media and the government said on Monday.
Reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL and Doina Chiacu in WASHINGTON. Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and David Morgan in WASHINGTON, John Ruwich in SHANGHAI, Cynthia Kim in SEOUL. Editing by Lincoln Feast and Michael Perry