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

US watching North Korea closely for possible 'Christmas surprise' missile launch
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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 EsperTrump: 'I don't think we'll have to' send military to cities House chairman presses Pentagon leaders on use of military against DC protesters Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief says he opposes invoking Insurrection Act for protests | White House dodges on Trump's confidence in Esper | 'Angry and appalled' Mattis scorches Trump MORE and Stephen Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea, have warned of a possible test. 

“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