North and South Korea have ended 42 years of propaganda broadcasts that blared along the length of their land border as part of moves to ease tensions between the militaries of the two sides, RFA's Korean service reports.

South Korean soldiers take down a battery of propaganda loudspeakers along the border with North Korea in Paju on 16 June 2004. The dismantling follows an inter-Korean accord to remove all propaganda materials along the world's last Cold War frontier. AFP PHOTO/ KIM JAE-HWAN

"From June 15, all kinds of propaganda activities within the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) area are being stopped, which is entirely the shining result of General Kim Jong-il's great unification ideology and guidance," the North Korean speakers blared in their final broadcast.

"We, from one blood and using one language, can no longer live separated and we must put the earliest possible end to the tragedy of national division," it said.

And South Korea responded: "Now we announce the historic fact that our voice of freedom broadcasts, which we have aired for 42 years since 1962, are being brought to closure according to the results of inter-Korean working-level military contacts."

The two countries started border loudspeaker broadcasts in late 1950s and early 1960s with the aim of encouraging defectors from each side. They are being ended to mark the fourth anniversary of the North-South Korean summit, when South Korean Kim Dae-jung met the leader of the world's last Stalinist state, Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on June 15, 2000.

And in an historic exchange Monday, the navies of North and South Korea exchanged messages in the first radio contact between active military units since the 1950-53 Korean War.

"Baekdu-san one, Baekdu-san one, this is Halla-san one. Please come forward," a South Korean sailor shouted into his radio, at 9 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) Monday, just off Yeonpyeong Island, 230 kms west of here.

Almost immediately, the reply came back: "This is Baekdu-san one, Roger," sounded the voice of a North Korean navy radio operator. The code-names were chosen for the highest mountain peaks in the two Koreas?Baekdu in the North and Halla in the South.

Following the brief radio exchange, flag and flash signals also penetrated the morning sea-haze in the 900 meters of hotly disputed seawater between them, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported from the Yeonpyeong Island area.

The moves are part of an agreement signed between the militaries of the two sides on June 4 detailing a series of tension-reducing measures.

The agreement also requires the two navies to share a radio frequency, use the same flag- and flash-signal systems, and exchange information about suspected poaching activities by any third country.

The two sides also agreed to open a permanent telephone hotline between their naval headquarters on Aug. 12. Until then, they will use a commercial cross-border telephone line to communicate.

A long-running disagreement over the maritime border off the west coast of the divided peninsula has been the cause of many naval clashes that have killed or wounded dozens on both sides.

The line in the Yellow Sea runs through rich fishing grounds that have been the scene of naval gunfights in past years, especially during crab-fishing season.

When the Korean War ended, the maritime border was not demarcated. The American-led U.N.Command unilaterally set a border there, which North Korea has never recognized, arguing that the real border should be further south. #####


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