The United States has stepped up surveillance over North Korea after Pyongyang promised a "Christmas gift" which Washington interpreted as new missile test amid rising tension between the two sides ahead of the end of the year.
North Korea, which has set a year-end deadline for the US to stop hostilities and make concessions to revive the stalled diplomatic talks over the country’s nuclear and missile program, warned last week that the administration of President Donald Trump was running out of time to salvage the negotiations.
Pyongyang said it was up to Washington to choose what sort of “Christmas gift” it gets from the North.
This prompted Washington to send four spy planes over the Korean peninsula on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to watch the North closely.
Trump also reacted to Pyongyang’s warning, saying that Washington will “find out what the surprise is and we'll deal with it very successfully.”
Later, the US president said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might be planning to give him "a nice present” such as a "beautiful vase” for Christmas rather than a missile launch.
North Korea has been under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the United Nations and the US over its nuclear and missile programs.
In spite of those sanctions, Pyongyang has taken several unilateral steps as signs of goodwill in the course of diplomacy with the US since 2018. It has put a halt on its nuclear tests since 2017.
The US, nevertheless, has failed to offer any concessions in return. This has in turn led to North Korea gradually losing interest in diplomacy with the US, which it says would be meaningless if Pyongyang were the only party taking action.
The recent flare-up of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang has entangled US allies in the region as well.
Japan mistakenly reports North Korea missile test
A Japanese broadcaster mistakenly reported that Pyongyang had launched a missile which landed in the sea off the country’s northernmost island of Hokkaido early on Friday.
The public broadcaster NHK issued an apology, explaining that it had been intended for “training purposes.”
“We apologize to our viewers and the public," said the broadcaster.
Pyongyang sent missiles over the island of Hokkaido in 2017. Back then, Tokyo used to issue warnings on millions of cell phones throughout the country.
There are fears that tensions may spike as the end-of-the-year deadline for the US to take reciprocal action nears. Washington has already rejected that timeline
China, North Korea’s most important ally, has been pushing for the resumption of demilitarization talks. Together with Russia, it has tabled a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to offer North Korea limited sanctions relief and break the deadlock in the talks. But the US has rejected the draft resolution, as well.
South Korea, long consumed by fears of a perceived North Korean threat, has also been pushing to reactivate the talks.
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