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Vice President Mike Pence with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Vice President Mike Pence told Axios' Mike Allen on Wednesday President Trump "always believes in talking [with North Korea], but talking is not negotiating."

Why it matters: He said nothing will change with North Korea until they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons. He said they must "completely, verifiably, and completely abandon" its missile programs, and "only then can we consider any change in posture by the United States or the international community."

  • He called North Korea "the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," which is "nothing short of a prison state."
  • On U.S. military options against North Korea: "The United States has viable military options to deal with the threat of nuclear and ballistic missiles from North Korea…we want to exhaust every opportunity to make sure North Korea understands our intentions and the seriousness of the USA and our allies."
  • On seeing Kim Yo-jung at the 2018 Olympics: "I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her…I didn’t believe it was proper for the USA to give her any attention in that forum."

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
3 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.