SATELLITE images suggest North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range nuclear weapon after threatening to send Donald Trump a “Christmas surprise”.
The photos have emerged as US military and intelligence officials were increasingly concerned Kim Jong-un was plotting to test a ballistic missile over the festive period.
Images obtained by NBC appear to show that North Korea has expanded its factory which makes missiles capable of reaching the United States.
They show a temporary structure for the raising of a launcher arms, says Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
In a report, Mr Lewis said there was clear evidence the hermit state was forging ahead launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
He concluded: "We believe North Korea erects this structure when the facility is involved in producing or modifying ICBM launchers
"There is activity at a number of locations indicating that North Korea is laying the groundwork for an expansion of their ICBM program — more systems, more buildings, more capabilities."
What I would expect is some kind of long-range ballistic missile would be the 'gift'General Charles Brown, head of Pacific Air Forces
end what he called ongoing “hostility” while warning time was running out to salvage nuclear weapons talks. The evidence has come to light after Kim gave the White House until December 31 to end what he called ongoing “hostility” while warning time was running out to salvage nuclear weapons talks.
Earlier this month the dictator issued a very chilly festive warning to Trump , saying it was "up to the US what Christmas gift it will get" from the rogue state.
General Charles Brown, head of Pacific Air Forces, told reporters: "What I would expect is some kind of long-range ballistic missile would be the 'gift'.
"Does it come on Christmas Eve? Does it come on Christmas Day? Does it come after the new year? One of my responsibilities is to pay attention to that."
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Any launch would signal a complete breakdown of peace talks aimed at averting nuclear war in the Korean peninsula and surrounding countries.
restart behind-the-scenes negotiations in October but quickly hit another stalemate. The US and North Korea attempted to restart behind-the-scenes negotiations in October but quickly hit another stalemate.
Afterwards the North Koreans hit out at the Americans' "old stance and attitude".
That move came after Trump's talks with Kim during a second so-called peace summit broke down in Vietnam.
The summit collapsed without an agreed deal for denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.
Washington has since said it will only relax crippling economic sanctions against the country if North Korea gives up its nukes and long-range missiles.