North Korea’s threat to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the U.S. appears to have fizzled, with no reports of military action by Pyongyang as of late Wednesday.
A North Korean official earlier this month accused U.S. negotiators of trying to buy time without offering solutions as the two countries struggle to reach a nuclear agreement. The official added that such inaction meant that the U.S. was essentially choosing to receive an unspecified gift from North Korea.
“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep [North Korea] bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” Ri Thae Song said Dec. 3. “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
As of Wednesday night there were no reports of North Korean missile tests or hostile actions. Pyongyang is 14 hours ahead of Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon declined to comment on Wednesday.
The U.S. appeared to take North Korea’s warning seriously, flying four surveillance planes over the Korean peninsula Wednesday.
Just a day earlier, President Trump joked 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 Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla.
Trump is spending the holidays at his Mar-A-Lago resort.
U.S. talks with North Korea have floundered since Trump walked away from a February summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after they hit an impasse on proposed U.S. 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. When those talks resumed in October, they quickly broke down.
North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the U.S. 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.
In the run-up to the deadline, North Korea has hurled insults at Trump, calling him a “dotard” and saying “foolish” U.S. actions have already helped it make a “definite decision” on its next steps.
Some lawmakers in Washington have warned Pyongyang against a return to testing.
“If North Korea goes back to nuclear testing or they go back to ICBM testing, that will destroy their last best chance to have a win-win agreement with President Trump and that will put us on a collision course because we’re not going to allow them to develop the military capability to strike America with a nuclear weapon,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this month. “So if they go down that road, it will burn the bridges available to them.”
North Korea resumed testing short-range missiles this year, conducting more than a dozen launches.