South puts off sending propaganda

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South puts off sending propaganda

South Korea’s military has deferred a plan to fly anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to North Korea, a defense ministry official said yesterday as the communist nation kept up harsh rhetoric against Seoul’s propaganda warfare.

Distributing propaganda leaflets is among a series of measures South Korea plans to take in retaliation for North Korea’s sinking of a southern warship in March.

Other steps include halting trade with its impoverished neighbor and resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border.

“Leaflet distribution had been put off due to weather conditions so far, but we have now decided to put it on hold for the time being, considering the political situation,” the ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

North Korea has denied any responsibility for the sinking that killed 46 sailors, and strongly protested South Korea’s punitive measures. Pyongyang has warned of an “all-out war” if it is punished or sanctioned, and threatened to strike down border loudspeakers if propaganda broadcasts resume.

It has also threatened to consider shutting a cross-border route to a joint industrial complex in the North, casting a cloud over the fate of the factory park in the border town of Kaesong, the last remaining symbol of reconciliation between the two sides.

South Korea appears to be concerned that the leaflet campaign could escalate military tensions at a time when the nation is focusing on diplomatic efforts to bring the case to the UN Security Council.

Also believed to be a factor behind the decision were calls for restraint from companies worried about the fate of their businesses in the North.

Seoul has resumed FM radio propaganda broadcasts into the North while preparing to launch loudspeaker broadcasts on the heavily armed border. The loudspeaker campaign, which had been expected to begin in mid-June, is also likely to be to put on hold.

The two Koreas halted decades of propaganda warfare against each other under a 2004 deal struck as reconciliation between the sides reached a high following the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000.

But their ties were badly damaged as North Korea strongly protested President Lee Myung-bak’s hard-line policies on Pyongyang, including his linking of aid to progress in international efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear programs.

The sides technically remain in a state of conflict after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

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