Christmas day came and went without any sign of a “gift” to the United States from North Korea.
Pyongyang warned on Tuesday, Dec. 3 that, it would send the United States a “Christmas gift,” if Washington does not ease sanctions before the end of the year.
The North Korean threat sparked precautionary action over the holiday period.
Following Pyongyang’s “Christmas gift” announcement, South Korea and the United States stepped up surveillance and reconnaissance flights to monitor North Korea’s preparations for the possible launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The South Korean government on Thursday, Dec. 26, said it was closely watching North Korean activity after Pyongyang’s “promise” to send the United States a ‘Christmas gift.’
“South Korea and the U.S. are continuously monitoring and tracking down North Korean movements based on a close collaboration between South Korean and U.S. intelligence,” said South Korean Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo during a press briefing.
“Our military is resolutely maintaining military preparedness in case of a diverse military situation, as well as working together with the U.S. through cooperation,” continued Choi.
An E-8C Joint Stars ground surveillance aircraft of the U.S. Air Force flew over the Korean Peninsula on Dec. 3 and the following week, according to flight tracker Aircraft Spots.
The surveillance picked up signs that North Korea had moved a three-stage rocket from a missile factory in Sanum-dong in Pyongyang to an assembly facility at Tongchang-ri.
The move prompted military experts to speculate that if Tongchang-ri is chosen for the launch, it will be a long-range rocket capable of delivering a nuclear warhead instead of a straightforward intercontinental ballistic missile.
President Trump, on Christmas Eve, downplayed Pyongyang’s threat, after denuclearization negotiations with the United States stalled.
“That’s OK,” President Trump told reporters from his Mar-a-Lago resort when he was asked about a possible surprise from North Korea.
“We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully. Let’s see what happens. Everybody’s got surprises for me but let’s see what happens. I handle them as they come along,” responded President Trump.
“Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test,” added President Trump, who appeared to be unfazed.
For the American troops stationed in South Korea—most of them from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division—they would be the first line of defense if there was a conflict with North Korea. Their motto is, “Ready to fight tonight.”