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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

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.