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U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber (L), South Korea and U.S. fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula during a combat exercise. Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that the U.S. will be delaying joint military exercises with South Korea through March 18 until after the Paralympics, NBC News' Hans Nichols reports.

Why it matters: North Korea views the drills as practice for invasion, and this will likely ease some tensions for now between the U.S. and the DPRK.

Backdrop: In a New Year's Day speech, North Korea's Kim Jong-un requested that South Korea and the U.S. stop their joint drills, as he has suggested many times before. That came just before the South and the North opened up a telephone line at the border to talk for the first time under South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier this week.

  • This could signal the U.S. may be somewhat amenable to some of the conversations that are happening, or willing to make concessions to make a Korean war less likely, although Mattis said the decision was a "practical" matter more than a political one, per Aaron Mehta of Defense News.

One other note, on Iran: Mattis reportedly said, "We do not have an issue with the Iranian people. We do have a big issue with the Iranian regime," per Nichols.

  • Why it matters: This is a shift in tone. Iran believes the U.S. is out to undermine its regime, and Iran could claim this shows the U.S. really is working against the government in its statements about the recent anti-government protests, and not just backing the protesters' rights as Trump's tweets have tended to do in recent days.

Go deeper

Anti-Trump lawmakers' private security expenses ballooned after Jan. 6 riot

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on April 14. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Image

Members of Congress are spending tens of thousands of dollars on personal security for them and their families in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, according to an analysis of first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports by Punchbowl News.

Between the lines: Private security expenditures were especially common among anti-Trump Republicans and high-profile Democrats who earlier this year voted to impeach and convict the former president for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, signaling they fear for the safety of themselves and their families.

1 hour ago - World

Jimmy Lai among Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison

Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.