South may broadcast propaganda at DMZ

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South may broadcast propaganda at DMZ

South Korea is considering resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border with North Korea if the communist nation is found to be behind the deadly sinking of a naval ship, a military official said yesterday.

The two Koreas had blasted propaganda messages across the border for decades before suspending them under a 2004 accord as part of reconciliation efforts. Loudspeakers and other propaganda facilities along the 248-kilometer-long (154-mile-long) border have also been dismantled.

But ties between the two sides have frayed badly since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008. The North has protested his hard-line stance against Pyongyang, which links aid to the impoverished country to progress in efforts to end its nuclear programs.

Tension on the divided peninsula has spiked in recent months amid widespread suspicions that North Korea sank the 1,200-ton South Korean patrol ship Cheonan in waters near the Yellow Sea border on March 26. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.

“We’re considering resuming loudspeaker broadcasts on the border as part of military measures for us to take if it is confirmed the North is behind the sinking,” a military official said on condition of anonymity. “A working-level study into that possibility is now underway.”

The move is in line with instructions from Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, the official said.

After an initial examination of the Cheonan’s wreckage, South Korean investigators said the vessel was most likely struck by an underwater “non-contact” explosion, possibly from a torpedo or a sea mine, before it broke in half and sank.

Investigators have since collected from the wreckage traces of a powerful explosive substance and fragments of metal, both of which are used in making torpedoes. That has significantly bolstered suspicions that the ship came under a torpedo attack.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty. Their western sea border was the scene of deadly naval skirmishes between the neighbors in 1999, 2002 and most recently in November last year.

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