PYONGYANG, North Korea. — North Korea will send a “Christmas gift” to the United States, but what that present contains will depend on the outcome of ongoing talks between Washington and Pyongyang, a top official has warned.
The ominous comments, which some have interpreted as a sign that North Korea could resume long-distance missile tests, comes as the clock ticks closer to the country’s self-imposed end-of-year deadline for nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Talks between the two sides have appeared to be in a rut in recent months, with North Korea conducting several shorter-range missile tests.
In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policymakers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain.
“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,” Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” added Ri.
In 2017, North Korea referred to its first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a “gift” for the US on the Fourth of July holiday. That launch sparked what became a tense, months-long standoff between the two sides.
What happens in the coming weeks will likely determine if Washington’s next so-called “Christmas gift” turns out to be similarly volatile.
“It’s hard to predict because it could go either way,” said Duyeon Kim, senior adviser on Northeast Asia and nuclear policy to the International Crisis Group. “It really depends on the circumstance and the situation, which will better inform how North Korea reacts.”