Christmas Day came and went without any sign of the promised "gift" from North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un following an ultimatum from the reclusive country for the U.S. to make new concessions in talks over the country’s nuclear program.
Four surveillance planes were sent to monitor the Korean Peninsula this week in anticipation of the reference of a "Christmas gift" for the U.S. after North Korea warned of a possible missile launch or nuclear test amid the stalled negotiations with the U.S.
“South Korea and the U.S. are continuously monitoring and tracking down on North Korean movements based on a close collaboration between South Korea and the U.S. intelligence offices,” South Korea’s defense spokesperson Choi Hyun Soo told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.
“In addition, our military is resolutely maintaining standing military preparedness in case of the diverse military situation as well as work together with the U.S. through cooperation,” she added.
President Donald Trump downplayed the cryptic remark by Kim Jong Un, saying the "gift" could be a "beautiful vase."
“Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test. Right? I may get a vase, I may get a nice present from him, you don’t know. You never know,” the president told reporters following a video conference with U.S. troops from his Florida home on Christmas Eve.
The surveillance missions sent by the U.S. marked the second time this week the country has monitored the secretive regime, military observers said.
According to an analysis of satellite photos obtained by NBC News earlier this month, North Korea has been spotted expanding a factory that's been linked to the production of intercontinental nuclear missiles.
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have ratcheted up in recent months following the collapse of talks in February in Hanoi. However, a second historic meeting was held at the DMZ where President Trump crossed into North Korea. Another round of talks followed in October, but those broke down.
The reclusive North Korean leader has stated recently that they may begin seeking a "new path" should the U.S. continue with sanctions and pressure against the country for their nuclear program and long-range missile tests.
Critics of President Trump, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was fired by Trump in September, have warned that North Korea still poses a threat to the U.S. and that the Trump administration was more about "rhetorical policy" than a "real policy."
“The risk to U.S. forces and our allies is imminent and more effective policy is required before [North Korea] has the technology to threaten the American homeland,” he tweeted on Monday.
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