KOREAN PENINSULA

S. Korea takes down disputed border ‘Christmas tree’

Kim Jae-Myung, AFP
2 min

South Korea has demolished a “Christmas tree” border tower that has long angered its northern neighbour, though denying the move was aimed at appeasing the North.

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Officials in Seoul said the 43-year-old building was pulled down because it was unsafe. South Korea intends to build a park in its place.

The building, which has a prominent cross at the top, was lit up every year by Christian groups until 2004, after which relations with North Korea warmed during an era of reconciliation.

But Seoul allowed Christian groups to light the tower in 2010 and 2012 as tensions spiked again following two attacks that killed 50 South Koreans and a banned long-range rocket test by North Korea.

The tower, which was located about three kilometers from the border, sat on a hill high enough to be seen clearly by North Koreans living near the border.

The news of the dismantling came three days after troops from the rival Koreas exchanged gunfire along the border, the second shootout in less than 10 days. There were no reports of casualties from either incident.

Earlier this month, there were signs of easing tensions after a high-profile North Korean delegation visited South Korea and agreed to revive senior-level talks.

South Korean Defense Ministry officials denied media speculation that the tower was dismantled as a conciliatory gesture aimed at improving ties with North Korea.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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