(ATTN: UPDATES with allies' drills, other details in last 8 paras; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea announced Monday that it has stopped propaganda broadcasts over the border ahead of inter-Korean summit talks this week, saying it's expected to help boost the reconciliatory mood on the peninsula.
"The Ministry of National Defense halted the loudspeaker broadcasts against North Korea in the vicinity of the military demarcation line (MDL) at the start of Monday," the ministry said in a statement.
It's aimed at "reducing military tensions between the South and North and creating the mood of peaceful talks" on the occasion of the summit talks, the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement. The talks are scheduled to take place at the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday.
The ministry expressed hope that the measure will lead to the suspension of criticism and propaganda activities between the two Koreas.
The move is apparently an answer to Pyongyang's recent peace gestures, including the weekend announcement of the decisions to shut down its nuclear test facilities in Punggye-ri and suspend nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.
The South began anti-Pyongyang broadcasts using high-decibel loudspeakers in 1963, with the North blaring its own propaganda messages across the border as well.
The two sides halted the broadcasts in 2015 in a deal at high-level talks, but Seoul resumed the loudspeaker campaign in January 2016 in response to the North's fourth nuclear test.
The broadcasts, reportedly made from more than 40 locations close to the MDL, included messages critical of the North's communist system and even K-pop music.
The South operated a set of loudspeakers near Panmunjom, the venue for the upcoming meeting between President Moon Jae-in and the North's leader Kim Jong-un.
The South's military will also likely pause its annual combined military exercise with the U.S. on the summit day.
The Key Resolve command-post training kicked off earlier Monday for a two-week run as scheduled. The allies plan to finish the first part of the drill on Thursday, followed by an unofficial assessment session Friday and the second part of the drill next week, an informed source said.
Their separate four-week Foal Eagle field exercise is drawing to a close this week.
The two sides usually open the annual spring drills in late February or early March. This year they waited till the end of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympic games.
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