North Korea threatens to launch “Christmas gift” to the U.S.

U.S. officials are on high alert for signs of a possible missile launch from North Korea in the coming days that officials have referred to as a “Christmas gift.”

A significant launch or nuclear test would raise the end of North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on missile launches and tests. It would also be a major blow to one of President Trump’s major foreign policy goals to get North Korea back to the negotiating table to eliminate its nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, the North conducted what U.S. officials say was an engine test. Experts believe it may have involved an engine for a long-range missile.

“North Korea has been advancing. It has been building new capabilities,” said Anthony Wier, a former State Department official who tracks nuclear disarmament for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “As long as that continues, they gain new capabilities to try new missiles to threaten us and our allies in new ways,”

North Korea warned of a possible “Christmas gift” in early December, saying the Trump administration was running out of time on nuclear negotiations, and it was up to the U.S. to choose what “Christmas gift” it gets from Pyongyang.

Victor Cha, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a review of the possible launch sites in North Korea shows they are a “basically ready to go.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters earlier this week that the U.S. has heard all the talk of a possible upcoming test around Christmas.

“I’ve been watching the Korean Peninsula for a quarter-century now. I’m familiar with their tactics, with their bluster,” he said. “We need to get serious and sit down and have discussions about a political agreement that denuclearizes the peninsula. That is the best way forward and arguably the only way forward if we’re going to do something constructive.”

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Friday that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are ready to…

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