* First time in more than 2 yrs for halt to broadcasts
* Preparations underway for Moon-Kim summit on Friday (Adds quotes from defence ministry, more detail, background)
By Christine Kim
SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) - South Korea halted the propaganda broadcasts it blares across the border at North Korea on Monday to create a peaceful atmosphere ahead of the first inter-Korean summit in a decade this Friday, the defence ministry said. North Korea has its own propaganda broadcasts at the border, but a defence ministry official said he could not verify whether the North had stopped its broadcasts. In February, the North lowered the volume of its border propaganda after the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea’s Pyeongchang.
“We hope this decision will lead both Koreas to stop mutual criticism and propaganda against each other and also contribute in creating peace and a new beginning,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
It did not specify whether the loudhailer broadcasts would go on after the summit this week between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It is the first time in more than two years the South Korean broadcasts, which include a mixture of news, South Korean pop music and criticism of the North Korean regime, have been stopped. Broadcasts were halted in mid-2015 only to be restarted in January 2016 following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. Pyongyang has conducted two more nuclear tests since then.
The propaganda broadcasts were stopped at midnight, the defence ministry said.
The two Koreas are preparing for the summit on Friday, with officials at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Monday to hammer out details on security and media coverage of the event.
North Korea said on Saturday it was suspending nuclear and missile tests and scrapping its nuclear test site, and instead pursuing economic growth and peace.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who is due to meet with North Korea’s Kim in the coming weeks, welcomed the announcement but cautioned more progress was needed.
“We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell,” Trump said on Twitter. (Reporting by Christine Kim. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)