Trump says U.S. will ‘deal with’ any N.K. Christmas surprise

December 24, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the United States will “deal with it very successfully” regardless of what North Korea sends as its threatened “Christmas gift.”

Concerns are mounting that North Korea could test a long-range missile in the coming days in protest of stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Asked about the North’s warning of an unwanted “Christmas gift,” Trump said, “That’s okay. We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully.”

“Let’s see what happens,” he added, speaking to reporters at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “Everybody’s got surprises for me, but let’s see what happens. I handle them as they come along.”

A long-range missile test would be a setback for Trump as the U.S. president has touted the North’s suspension of such launches as a major diplomatic victory.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests in April 2018 ahead of his first summit with Trump in Singapore in June that year.

Asked what options he is considering in the event that North Korea fires a long-range missile, Trump continued, “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. Maybe it’s a nice present. Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test. I may get a vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don’t know. You never know.”

Trump and Kim have had three meetings to try to reach a deal on denuclearizing North Korea in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief and security assurances.

Negotiations hit a road block after the leaders’ second summit in Vietnam in February ended without a deal, with the U.S. rejecting North Korea’s offer to dismantle its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon in exchange for sweeping sanctions relief.

Pyongyang has staged a series of weapons tests since May to apparently pressure Washington to acquiesce to its demands by Kim’s self-imposed year-end deadline.

It has threatened to take a “new way” unless the U.S. comes to the negotiating table with an acceptable proposal.

The two sides last held working-level talks in Sweden in October, when the North Koreans accused the U.S. of having come “empty-handed.”

Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. envoy to the talks and now deputy secretary of state, traveled through South Korea, Japan and China last week to meet with his counterparts and also offer an impromptu meeting with the North Koreans during his stay in the region.

No meeting apparently materialized.