WASHINGTON — North Korea’s promised — or threatened — “Christmas gift” to the U.S. was not delivered by December 25. The Pentagon was not taking any chances.
The Pentagon flew four surveillance planes over and around the Korean Peninsula this week as a precaution after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un taunted that he had a “Christmas gift” for President Trump. Speculation centered around the possible testing of a long-range missile.
The flights were reported by South Korean media, citing te aircraft tracker site Aircraft Spots. Pentagon officials demurred on commenting.
Pyongyang warned of a possible surprise over the holidays if the United States did not ease sanctions before the end of the year. Washington has refused to acknowledge that deadline, seeking steps toward denuclearization in concert with economic sanctions relief.
North Korea resumed testing short-range missiles this year, first more than a dozen projectiles from various launch apparatus.
“In the public sphere, though, North Korea’s indicated a variety of things, and — and I think you’re aware of all those,” Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters on Friday. “So we are — we are prepared for whatever.
“From a military perspective, on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is — is one of those places in the world where we’ve always maintained very high levels of readiness,” he said. “And today, we have very high levels of readiness.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. delivered an economic holiday gift to North Korea earlier in the week when it blocked an attempt by China and Russia to lift some U.N. economic sanctions now lodged against North Korea.
That meant North Korean citizens working outside of their country in U.N. member states had to return to North Korea. The U.N. sanctions are crafted to restrict funding to Pyongyang’s nuclear and weapons programs and took effect last Sunday.
While North Korea did not test a missile this week, China did.
According to media reports, China’s military this week conducted a flight test of a new submarine-launched missile capable of hitting the entire United States with a nuclear warhead. Pentagon officials did not comment on those reports.