December 26, 2019 09:37
Four U.S. manned and unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew over the Korean Peninsula and the East Sea over Christmas for fear that North Korea could launch a long-range rocket or other provocations. They were supported by a refueling aircraft.
But U.S. President Donald Trump appeared unfazed. Asked about a "Christmas gift" North Korea had threatened him with, Trump told reporters at his holiday home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, "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."
According to flight tracker Aircraft Spots, an RC-135W Rivet Joint, an RC-135S Cobra Ball and an E-8C Joint STARS surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, and a Global Hawk spy drone flew over the peninsula and the East Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft from the U.S. Forces Japan also flew over the East Sea to support their long flights.
In the past, U.S. spy aircraft switched off their location identification system when flying over the Korean Peninsula, but this time they kept them on, perhaps for psychological effect.
The North has set the U.S. a year-end deadline for concessions in stalled denuclearization talks and there is lively activity at its space rocket launch pad in Tongchang-ri near the Chinese border.
Earlier this month it conducted what is thought to have been a thrust test of a liquid-fuel engine there. An intercontinental ballistic missile test would end a two-year moratorium.
Trump faces a difficult re-election campaign next year and has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, so a failure in diplomacy with North Korea would be yet another embarrassment that could provoke him into more drastic action.
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