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This image, from a news bulletin aired today by North Korea's KRT, is said to show North Korea leader Kim Jong-un applauding after the launch of a Hwasong-14 (KRT via AP Video)

In their final conversations during the transition, Barack Obama issued a stark warning to Donald Trump: North Korea presents the most urgent, alarming, and bedeviling threat you will confront as head of the free world.

  • Today, North Korea showed why: The regime claims to have successfully tested a missile that could carry a nuclear bomb and hit Alaska (Update: U.S. officials now believe it may have been that type of missile; Secretary of State Tillerson condemns launch as "escalation.")
  • Trump's tweets: "North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea ... and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"
  • What North Korea said, via AP: "[T]he test of an ICBM — the Hwasong-14 — marked the 'final step' in creating a 'confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.'"

This doesn't mean the United States faces an imminent threat, because intelligence suggests the regime is a ways from getting the technology right to shoot a missile with sufficient distance and nuclear capacity. But this is a huge deal and here's why, from the N.Y. Times:

"The missile looked like the longest-range missile that North Korea had ever tested, and its long flight time was 'more consistent with an ICBM that can target Alaska and perhaps Hawaii,' said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies."
"'Even if this is a 7,000-km-range missile, a 10,000-km-range missile that can hit New York isn't far off.'"

The path of the rocket, via an AP graphic:

AP

Go deeper: Axios Expert Voices charts five courses of action for the U.S. confrontation with North Korea.

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Go deeper

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.