Flashpoints | Security | East Asia

North Korean Official: Up to United States What ‘Christmas Gift’ It Receives

The warning may foreshadow further missile testing or another demonstration before the end of the year.

Ankit Panda
North Korean Official: Up to United States What ‘Christmas Gift’ It Receives
Credit: Rodong Sinmun

A senior North Korean official, in a statement released Tuesday, warned the United States of the country‘s self-imposed end-of-year deadline for a negotiating outcome. Ri Thae Song, the vice minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea in charge of U.S. affairs, said in a statement that the “year-end time limit the DPRK set for the U.S.“ was drawing nearer.

The DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Ri’s statement complained that the United States was “keen on earning time needed for it, talking about the ‘sustained and substantial dialogue,’ far from acting in response to the measures taken by the DPRK first.”

Ri’s statement is the first warning in December and follows a spate of North Korean statements reminding the United States of the pending end-of-year deadline, which leader Kim Jong Un had set in remarks in April.

“If the U.S. adopts a correct posture and comes forward for the third DPRK-U. S. summit with a certain methodology that can be shared with us, we can think of holding one more talk,” Kim said in remarks to the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea in April.

“Anyway, we will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year, but I think it will definitely be difficult to get such a good opportunity as the previous summit,” he added. His remarks represented the first high-level North Korean statement on diplomacy with the United States after the failed summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, where Kim and U.S. President Donald J. Trump left empty handed.

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Since Kim’s remarks in April, North Korea has resumed testing missiles. It did not test a single ballistic missile in 2018 while talks were ongoing and has tested as many as 26 since May 2019.

Ri’s statement on Tuesday also made reference to the upcoming U.S. election, warning that the White House was using North Korea as a tool to position itself well for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“The dialogue touted by the U.S. 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 U.S.,” the statement said.

“What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get,” Ri added, suggesting that North Korea may stage some sort of demonstration—perhaps a missile test—by Christmas 2019.

The current U.S.-North Korea diplomatic process began with a historic summit between Kim and Trump—the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader—in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

In Singapore, the two leaders agreed to a four-point statement, which included commitments to normalize ties and pursue a “peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula. Kim agreed to work “toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” as well. The two sides further agreed to resume the repatriation of American prisoner-of-war/missing-in-action remains from the Korean War.