Trump watching NK 'closely' as talks deadline nears

Trump watching NK 'closely' as talks deadline nears

US Vice President Mike Pence and US President Donald Trump attend a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (AFP Photo)

US President Donald Trump said Monday he'd be "disappointed" if North Korea had something "in the works" as a year-end ultimatum from Pyongyang about the fate of their nuclear talks approaches.

The nuclear-armed North has issued increasingly strident declarations in recent weeks, even promising an ominous "Christmas gift" if Washington does not come up with some concessions.

The top US envoy to the negotiations with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said in Seoul on Monday that Pyongyang's rumblings were "hostile and negative" -- and Trump said he was watching.

"We'll see. I'd be disappointed if something would be in the works. And if it is, we'll take care of it," Trump said at the White House when asked about the situation. "We're watching it very closely."

The negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been largely stalled since the collapse of a February summit in Hanoi between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The North has said that if Washington fails to make it an acceptable offer, it will adopt a so far unspecified "new way." It has carried out a series of tests at its Sohae rocket facility this month, after a number of weapons launch in recent weeks.

"It's a concern -- their rhetoric," US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters, saying a new missile test by North Korea is "probable" as long as it remains unhappy with the state of negotiations.

Tests "will be likely if they don't get satisfied," Esper said Japan and others have said recent launches involved ballistic missiles, which Pyongyang is banned from testing under UN sanctions.

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