Earlier this month, a North Korean official accused US negotiators of trying to buy time without offering solutions as the two countries struggle to reach an agreement on denuclearization. The official added that such inaction meant that the US was essentially choosing to receive an unspecified “gift” from North Korea by Christmas.
“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep [North Korea] bound to dialogue and use it in favour of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri Thae Song said December 3. “What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
However, no such “gift”, which presumed to be some sort of military action or test, has been reported since then. The Pentagon declined to comment on Wednesday, but an Air Force general last week suggested the so-called gift could arrive sometime after Christmas as well.
“What I would expect is some type of long-range ballistic missile would be the gift. It’s just a matter of does it come on Christmas Eve, does it come on Christmas Day, does it come after the New Year,” Gen. Charles Brown, commander of Pacific Air Forces and air component commander for US Indo-Pacific Command, said at a breakfast roundtable on December 17.
The US appeared to take North Korea's Christmas warning seriously, flying four surveillance planes over the Korean Peninsula Wednesday.
US President Trump, however, remained optimistic, joking on Tuesday that the gift could be “a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test.”
“We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” he told reporters in Palm Beach at his Mar-a-Lago resort where he is spending the holidays.
US talks with North Korea have stalled since Trump walked away from a February summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after they hit an impasse on proposed US sanctions relief and how much of its weapons program Pyongyang was willing to shutter. Trump later met with Kim at the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone in June and agreed to resume working-level talks, however, they quickly broke down in October. North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the US to change its nuclear policy, and analysts have predicted a return to intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear tests if no progress is made between the two countries.