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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
It's now Kim Jong-un's move in the high-stakes game he and President Trump are playing, and neither side seems to know what the rules are.
Why it matters: The coming days could dictate whether we're headed for renewed dialogue, a nuclear standoff, or something in between.
Jim Walsh, an international security expert at MIT who has taken part in previous negotiations with the North Koreans, says that in a sense, Trump is using North Korea-style tactics.
Bill McKinney, who represented the U.S. in Pyongyang for three years during the implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, told my colleague Shannon Vavra:
"The ball is now in the North Korean court to make changes, alleviate our concerns. We don’t want to get in a position where we’re negotiating with ourselves. It’s not us figuring out how to bring them back in, it’s them trying to figure out how to bring us back in. Patience right now is a key factor of success.”
Worth noting: "They take their sweet time ... because they don't have the same constituency that President Trump has got to deal with," McKinney says.
Clapper. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
I asked James Clapper, who was an intelligence officer in Korea in the 1980s and three decades later served as Barack Obama's presidential envoy on a high-stakes trip to Pyongyang, what advice he'd give President Trump now that the summit has been called off:
More of my interview with Clapper, whose new book "Facts and Fears" is out this week, in Monday's edition.
Putin and Iranian president Rouhani meet in Turkey. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
With Russia warning that Iranian troops and their proxies will eventually have to leave Syria, Alex Kliment of Eurasia Group's GZERO Media writes in the latest Signal newsletter that the post-war winds might begin to blow against Iran.
The bottom line: The big loser here, of course, would be Iran, which has put thousands of its best troops — and Hezbollah proxies — on the line to save Bashar al-Assad’s neck. You can bet that Iranian hardliners, confronted with the collapse of the Iran deal and a more hostile US policy generally, won’t accept being pushed out of a Syrian peace easily.
Friedman speaks at the embassy ceremony. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP
Axios contributor Barak Ravid interviewed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in his new office in Jerusalem yesterday. Friedman said it will be another few months before the White House launches its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, and insisted that there's a path to success despite the Palestinians having boycotted the process:
"We have confidence that if we are able to propose something that is in the best interest of the Palestinian people, the leadership will ultimately rise to the occasion or they will be forced to rise to the occasion. I think anything that we propose will be something that it's obvious that the Palestinians will be better off with it than without it."
Behind the scenes: Barak reports that the peace plan is all but finished, but the Trump administration is unsure when and how to roll it out.
Go deeper: Read the full interview.
Worried that President Trump is embarking on a global trade war, U.S. allies and adversaries alike — India most recently — are turning to the World Trade Organization to mediate. They're getting nowhere, trade experts tell Axios' Erica Pandey.
"You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used. I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you."— From Trump's letter to Kim
Thanks for reading — see you on Monday evening for our Memorial Day edition.