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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un receives a military briefing in Pyongyang. Photo: KRT via AP Video

Trump's decision not to re-certify the Iran deal "sends an unmistakable signal to North Korea," Senator Tim Kaine said this week, which is that the "U.S. will back out of a nuclear deal even when it's being complied with." This, he says, drives "the chances of a diplomatic resolution in North Korea down to zero."

Why it matters: The potential for productive talks between the U.S. and North Korea is tenuous, even as tensions and militaristic threats ramp up.

North Korea isn't just taking a cue from U.S. behavior with Iran. The regime is likely also considering...

  • What happened in the 90s after the North and the U.S. came to an agreement that ultimately collapsed.
  • Libya, and the demise of Muammar Gaddhafi 8 years after he agreed to end the country's WMD program.

Where things stand:

  • Secretary Tillerson said last month that the U.S. has "three channels" of communication open to North Korea, but his spokesperson, Heather Nauert, was quick to clarify that "North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or ready for talks regarding denuclearization."
  • North Korea has said it will never give up its nuclear program, but the U.S. is demanding denuclearization. If the U.S. goes to the negotiating table with that demand on the table, the Pyongyang may never budge, Jim Walsh, who has been to Pyongyang to talk with officials about nuclear issues, tells Axios.
  • For any negotiations to be successful, Walsh says, it's "going to require that people enter talks without preconditions." His conclusion is that "any agreement — if there is an agreement — would first include a freeze, with the hope that over time the deal would include a rollback" in nuclear ambition.

Although this apparent dilemma comes with one big caveat: The likelihood that North Korea comes to the negotiating table in the first place is low, with or without a breakdown in the Iran deal.

Go deeper

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.

4 hours ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.