U.S. ready to deal with any North Korean ‘Christmas gift’: Trump
By Alexandra Alper
PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday brushed off North Korea’s warning of a “Christmas gift”, saying the United States would “deal with it very successfully,” amid U.S. concerns that Pyongyang might be preparing a long-range missile test.
“We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “We’ll see what happens.”
“Maybe it’s a nice present,” he quipped. “Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test.”
North Korea warned Washington earlier this month of a possible “Christmas gift” after its leader Kim Jong Un gave the United States until the end of the year to propose new concessions in talks over his country’s nuclear arsenal and reducing tensions between the two long-time adversaries.
In issuing the warning, North Korea accused Washington of trying to drag out denuclearization talks ahead of Trump’s re-election bid next year and said it was “entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
U.S. military commanders have said that the North Korean response could involve the testing of a long-range missile, something North Korea has suspended, along with nuclear bomb tests, since 2017.
Trump has repeatedly held up the suspension of such tests as evidence that his policy of engaging with North Korea, which has involved unprecedented summits with Kim, was working.
ICBM TEST IN 2017
North Korea’s last test of an intercontinental ballistic missile took place in November 2017. That involved a Hwasong-15 ICBM, the largest missile it has ever tested, and which it said was capable of reaching all of the United States.
Trump and Kim have met three times since 2018, but there has been no substantive progress in dialogue. North Korea has demanded an end to international sanctions while the United States says Pyongyang must first commit to giving up its nuclear weapons.
Recent days have seen a flurry of international diplomacy aimed at preventing a complete breakdown of dialogue and avoiding a return to the heated confrontation seen two years ago that raised fears of war.
China, North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, together with Russia, proposed last week that the U.N. Security Council lift some sanctions to break the current deadlock.
A U.S. State Department official responded by saying it was not the time to consider lifting U.N. sanctions when North Korea was “threatening to conduct an escalated provocation, refusing to meet to discuss denuclearization, and continuing to maintain and advance its prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
North Korea has conducted repeated tests of short-range missiles this year and this month carried out what appeared to be engine tests at a rocket-testing facility U.S. officials have said Kim promised Trump he would close.
Pyongyang said the tests were aimed at “restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.”
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Tim Ahmann and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Alex Richardson and Alistair Bell)