An ominous threat from North Korea about a “Christmas gift” will keep the world on edge through New Year’s Day — and beyond, The Hill reported Thursday.
With no delivery of a missile from the increasingly nuclear-armed nation, anxiety has only ramped up for what, where and when North Korea might make good on its warning.
No nation is more on edge than Japan, which issued a false alert Thursday saying North Korea had fired a missile that landed in waters east of Japan’s coastline. Twenty-three minutes later it retracted the report.
“At this particular moment, a false alarm like this can start a war,” MIT professor Vipin Narang tweeted.
For now, the original veiled warning from Pyongyang looms.
The top U.S. Air Force general in the Pacific region told reporters last week he expected the gift to be a long-range missile test, The Hill reported.
“What I would expect is some type of long-range ballistic missile would be the gift. It’s just a matter of does it come on Christmas Eve, does it come on Christmas Day, does it come after the New Year,” Gen. Charles Brown, commander of Pacific Air Forces and air component commander for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said Dec. 17, according to the tabloid.
But CNN, citing an unnamed source, has reported the Christmas gift could be a new hardline policy against the United States rather than a missile test.
According to The Hill, two upcoming events in North Korea could help clarify the uncertainty: a rare planning meeting of top officials from the ruling party before the end of the month — and a New Year’s Day address by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that might include major foreign policy decisions.
“I suspect we’ll continue to see provocations from #NorthKorea as Kim seeks to gain leverage in #nuclear negotiations,” Jean Lee, director of the Korea center at the Wilson Center in Washington, tweeted.
“But I don’t think he wants to completely shut the door to diplomacy. Will be monitoring Kim’s New Year’s Day speech for clarity on #NorthKorea’s direction in 2020.”