US watching North Korea closely for possible 'Christmas surprise' missile launch

The U.S. is watching North Korea for indications of a possible “Christmas surprise” missile test, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

The wire service reported that Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Senate sends .4T spending bill to Trump | Lawmakers fail to reach deal on impeachment trial before holidays | Pompeo hits Iran with new sanctions Overnight Defense: House poised for historic vote to impeach Trump | Fifth official leaves Pentagon in a week | Otto Warmbier’s parents praise North Korea sanctions bill Pompeo: State Department won’t be distracted by ‘noise’ and ‘silliness’ of impeachment MORE and Stephen Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea warn of a possible test. 

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“We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead,”  Biegun said. “To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

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“We need to get serious and sit down and have discussions about a political agreement that denuclearizes the peninsula. That is the best way forward and arguably the only way forward if we’re going to do something constructive,” said Esper. 

Researchers also told the AP that North Korea was making advances. 

Anthony Wier, a former State Department official who tracks nuclear disarmament for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, told the wire service that North Korea “has been building new capabilities.”

The AP’s report came weeks after a North Korean official warned that the U.S. would choose what “Christmas gift” it wants from Pyongyang.

The hermit nation has also made other escalations, saying recently that it carried out a “very important test” at a satellite launch facility and that denuclearization is off the table. 

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