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A protest in Seoul on May 16, 2018, over the joint South Korea–U.S. military drills. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea canceled talks with South Korea this week in response to joint U.S.–South Korea military drills and has also put next month's U.S.–North Korea summit in doubt.

The big picture: North Korea seems to be insisting on two conditions for the U.S. summit it believed to have been previously established: U.S.–South Korea exercises will exclude threatening military power, and the U.S. will enter denuclearization negotiations in good faith.

During an April 27 meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that military exercises could continue, but with the understanding that major strategic assets like fighter jets and bombers would not be deployed. The most recent exercise did indeed involve F-22s, though plans to use B-52s have reportedly been scrapped. South Korea will likely try to assure the North that it will no longer use such assets in the immediate future.

As for the U.S. negotiations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now had two direct meetings with Kim. While the details haven't been publicly disclosed, both parties appear to have reached enough of a consensus to move forward with plans for the June summit in Singapore. However, National Security Advisor John Bolton's recent references to a more aggressive denuclearization approach — "the Libya model" — have sowed North Korea doubts about Pompeo’s promised deal.

North Korea's statement now puts the spotlight on Trump, who must decide between Bolton's approach and the summit. Early signs indicate that Trump will opt for the summit, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has already described Bolton’s views as his own, not the administration's.

What's next: In the coming days, Seoul and Washington will likely scramble to patch things up so all three parties can proceed with negotiations. But North Korea's message is clear: If the U.S. doesn’t change its insistence on unilateral nuclear abandonment, North Korea may yet walk away from the table.

John Park is director of the Korea Working Group at the Harvard Kennedy School. Pamela Park is co-founder of the Brookbridge Group.

Go deeper

U.S. will now allow private citizens to sponsor Afghan refugees

A family boards a bus at the airport that will take them to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Americans wanting to help vulnerable Afghan refugees now have a new way to get involved through a new U.S. private refugee sponsorship program announced Monday.

  • Groups of at least 5 adults can apply, complete background checks and start fundraising the $2,275 per refugee required.

Why it matters: It’s a big shift in the U.S refugee process, which has long relied on non-profits.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
39 mins ago - Energy & Environment

What we’re watching during the final countdown to COP26

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This is shaping up as a critical week for climate policy in the U.S. and worldwide.

Driving the news: Democrats are in the final stages of trying to craft the big social spending and climate package they're trying to move on a thread-the-needle party-line vote.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.