Japan’s public broadcaster reported on Thursday that North Korea had fired a missile — triggering fears it was the long awaited “Christmas gift” promised to the US — but apologized after it turned out to be a demo gone wrong.
On December 3, North Korea said it had kept its word to Donald Trump and had not tested any long range missiles in over two years, but warned the US to keep up their end of the bargain and consider easing sanctions.
“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister of US affairs Ri Thae Song said.
That Christmas gift looked to be a missile test early on Thursday after Japanese broadcaster NHK posted an alert which said a missile had passed over Japanese airspace and crashed into the sea.
“North Korean missile seen as having fallen into seas about 2,000 km east of Hokkaido’s Cape Erimo,” the message sent at 12:22 a.m. said, according to Reuters.
At 12:45 a.m., 23 minutes after the alert was sent, NHK issued a retraction.
“The news bulletin of the North Korean missile falling at 00:22 was incorrect,” it said.
“We apologise to our viewers and the public,” NHK later wrote on its website, according to Reuters.
—Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) December 26, 2019
Trump joked on Tuesday that Kim’s Christmas gift to him and the US could be a “beautiful vase.”
“We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” Trump said to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
“We’ll see what happens.”
“Maybe it’s a nice present. Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test,” Trump said. “I may get a vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don’t know. You never know.”
US officials and foreign policy experts feared the gift would be a long-range missile test, but as of December 27, no test has been reported.
But it could still happen. On New Years’ Day every year Kim gives a speech in which he often makes large announcements.
Tokyo-based Radiopress news agency said that between Monday and Thursday this week, 30 out of 109 news stories on North Korean state TV were about Kim inspecting the military, which was a substantial increase from 2018’s coverage.