South Korea on Monday halted the propaganda broadcasts it blares across the border with North Korea, aiming to set a positive tone ahead of the first summit in a decade between their leaders as the U.S. president cautioned the nuclear crisis was far from resolved.
"North Korea's decision to freeze its nuclear program is a significant decision for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said. "It is a green light that raises the chances of positive outcomes at the North's summits with SouthKorea and the United States. If North Korea goes the path of complete denuclearization starting from this, then a bright future for North Korea can be guaranteed."
South Korea's propaganda broadcasts, which include a mix of news, Korean pop songs, and criticism of the North Korean regime, were stopped at midnight, the defense ministry in Seoul said. It didn't specify if 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 defense ministry said.
It marks the first time in more than two years that the South's broadcasts have fallen silent. NorthKorea has its own propaganda loudspeakers at the border, but a defense ministry official said he could not verify that they had also stopped.
North Korea said on Saturday it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace, a declaration welcomed by world leaders.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is due to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday, and is expected to meet with President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
The inter-Korean talks and the expected Kim-Trump summit 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.
In Washington, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday he was optimistic that U.S. talks with North Korea would be "fruitful." "Right now, I think there is a lot of reasons for optimism that the negotiations will be fruitful and we'll see," Mattis said before the start of his meeting with his counterpart from Thailand.
China, North Korea's main ally, welcomed the North Korean announcement. The Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told reporters on Monday that North Korea's announcement at the weekend was "great news." "We cannot let any noise damage the continued improvements in the situation on the peninsula and cannot allow anything to interfere in or obstruct the talks process between the parties," Wang said, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Beijing.