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US and South Korea on high alert after North Korea’s threat of ‘Christmas gift’

After months of stalled nuclear negotiations and ratcheting up rhetoric, North Korea has promised to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the U.S. — a warning that has American and South Korean officials on high alert this week for a potential long-range missile test.

That could mean a swift unraveling of Trump’s diplomatic efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, perhaps even a return to his days of threatening “fire and fury” on “Little Rocket Man.”

The “option” that North Korea wants is the U.S. abandoning its “hostile policies” of demanding North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and refusing to provide sanctions relief until it starts to do so — something the Trump administration says it will not do. The ultimatum echoed one from Kim himself in April, telling Trump that he would wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to be more flexible and take a new approach to their talks. The two leaders’ second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February ended when Kim offered to dismantle the nuclear facility at Yongbyon in exchange for an end to U.N. economic sanctions. That would have left North Korea’s secret nuclear sites and its nuclear arsenal, so Trump walked away.

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