North Korea promises 'Christmas gift' for US amid rising tensions

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North Korea promises 'Christmas gift' for US amid rising tensionsNorth Korea marked the start of the advent season on Tuesday with the promise of a “Christmas gift” for the US if it made no progress on reviving stalled nuclear talks in December.  In April, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, set an end-of-year deadline for Washington to show flexibility in its position, but US officials have described the deadline as artificial, appearing to wave off its significance.  The past few months have been marked by a series of North Korean weapons tests, widely viewed as a sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at failed international efforts to resume talks after the collapse of a February summit in Hanoi between Kim and Donald Trump, the US president.  In the latest statement from Pyongyang, one of several warnings issued via state media, Ri Thae Song, vice minister of foreign affairs, in charge of US relations, accused Washington of trying to drag out denuclearisation talks ahead of the US presidential election next year.  The threat appeared to be in response to a US state department statement calling for “sustained and substantial dialogue” after North Korea’s test of new multiple rocket launchers last Thursday.  “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,” he said, referring to the official name used for North Korea.  Pyongyang had “done its utmost with maximum perseverance,” Mr Ri added.  “What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.” The US and North Korea attempted to restart backroom negotiations in October but quickly hit another stalemate.  Washington has not yet responded to the veiled warning. However, the statement led to speculation on social media about whether the “gift” could be an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear test.

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