S. Korean group cancels plans for border tree

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean church group said Thursday it canceled plans to erect a giant Christmas tree near the border with North Korea after locals complained that it could provoke Pyongyang.

The Seoul-based Christian Council of Korea faced strong resistance from residents in the border town of Gimpo after it announced plans earlier this month to set up and illuminate a 9-meter (30-feet) tree for two weeks starting Dec. 23, the group’s spokesman said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules under which he cannot be identified.

The group wanted to replace a 43-year-old front-line Christmas tree-shaped tower that was dismantled in October because of structural safety concerns. The tower, which was located about 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the border, sat on a peak high enough for North Koreans to see it. The structure stoked tensions because Pyongyang saw it as propaganda warfare.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula remains high since troops from the rival Koreas exchanged gunfire along their heavily armed border twice in October. The Korean Peninsula is technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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