At the start of this month North Korea declared it would send a "Christmas gift" to the United States but without specifying what the potentially menacing 'surprise' gift could be. The only qualification was that the 'gift' would be determined based on White House responsiveness and concessions before a Pyongyang self-imposed end of year deadline for talks.
But now a top US Air Force general says he knows what to expect: the “Christmas gift” to Washington will be a long-range ballistic missile test, he said according to The Hill.
“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 U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Tuesday.
He did additionally admit “range” of possibilities, however, and held out hope that tensions would not escalate. “I think there’s also the possibility that the self-imposed moratorium [on long-range tests] may go away and nothing happens right away. [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] announces it but then doesn’t shoot.”
Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, declared two weeks ago that "The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US."
He then warned: "It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get." This after N.Korea test-fired two short-range missiles on Thanksgiving Day, and then one just days ago, in a now familiar pattern of doing threatening things on American holidays.
Pyongyang is now also warning it will take “new path” should denuclearization talks fail, which most analysts think will be a return to intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or nuclear tests.
The north has launched dozens of "short-range" missiles since May, but has largely stuck to its word that it would refrain from ICBM tests, despite occasional disputes about the precise the nature of some of the tests.
“We’re watching it very closely,” Trump said Monday, noting he would be “disappointed” if that happens.