Seoul CNN  — 

South Korea’s military announced Monday it has turned off loudspeakers that blast propaganda across the highly militarized border with North Korea, in an apparent gesture of goodwill ahead of Friday’s historic summit between the two nations’ leaders.

The speakers, which can be heard for miles on the North’s side, have been playing on a regular basis since January 2016, when they were turned back on as a response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. They broadcast Korean pop music, news and weather forecasts – snippets of everyday life in the South that are strictly off limits for North Koreans.

Though North Korea also engages in propaganda broadcasts of its own, it has long objected to the South’s use of speakers, and has at times responded to them with artillery fire.

The move represents a modest concession to Pyongyang just days before its leader, Kim Jong Un, is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in during Friday’s inter-Korean summit.

It’s the first time the leaders of the two Koreas, which are technically still at war since the Korean War ended with a truce in 1953, will sit down for face-to-face talks in more than a decade.

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South Korean soldiers drow down a cover from the loudspeakers at a military base near the border between South Korea and North Korea on January 8, 2016 in South Korea.

A spokeswoman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the decision was made “to ease military tension between the two Koreas and to create a peaceful environment for the upcoming summit.”

Preparations for the meeting are now in full swing, with working-level talks between the two countries starting Monday to hammer out details. The US State Department’s point person for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Susan Thornton, is also in Seoul, where she is scheduled to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Denuclearization a sticking point?

The summit itself, and a potential upcoming meeting between Kim and Trump, would have been unthinkable last year, when saber-rattling between Washington and Pyongyang combined with North Korea’s increased nuclear and ballistic weapons testing to raise tensions dramatically.

The topic of denuclearization is likely to be high on the summit agenda, but what exactly the term constitutes isn’t clear.

US President Donald Trump and his administration are expected to seek the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a stated policy goal dating back to the Clinton administration.

Analysts have said that the North Koreans see denuclearization as a burden both parties must share. If the North were to give up its nuclear weapons, it could ask in return for the United States to remove its nuclear-capable assets from the region, and even remove South Korea from its nuclear umbrella – a commitment from the US to use its nuclear weapons in defense of allies.

Moon said Thursday the North Koreans have dropped its long-held demand that the United States withdraw forces from South Korea and that he believes both sides do not differ when it comes to “the concept of denuclearization.”

PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 29:  (SOUTH KOREA OUT)  In this handout photo from Chosun Daily News, a North Korean Soldier (R) looks at South Korean soldier at the border village of Panmunjom between North and South Korea on September 29, 2010 in Panmunjom, South Korea. The two Koreas plan to hold military talks in Panmunjom in an attempt to ease tensions between the countries. The mooted talks come in the wake of speculation over the succession of leader Kim Jong-il by his son Kim Jongun. (Photo by Lee Tae-Kyung/Getty Images)
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01:09 - Source: CNN

Moon: Bright