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Kim Jong-un in Hanoi. Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty

North Korea has announced it will send troops into sites previously used to foster cooperation with South Korea a day after demolishing an inter-Korean liaison office.

Why it matters: North Korea is wiping out all remnants of the detente with South Korea that began in 2018, and taking dramatic symbolic steps to signal a new more hostile era in relations. Pyongyang has also said it will resume military exercises and reestablish guard posts near the heavily fortified border.

Behind the scenes: Experts generally view this as a play for leverage from Kim Jong-un’s regime, which has expressed fury over America's unwillingness to loosen sanctions and is believed to be facing a severe economic downturn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • North Korea has also expressed outrage over propaganda leaflets sent across the border from the South.
  • Kim Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un, has been taking a central role in the rhetorical offensive from Pyongyang.

What to watch: Nuclear talks are likely to remain on ice this year, with an election approaching in the U.S.

  • The Kim regime’s goals include weakening the U.S.-South Korea alliance and reminding Washington “that North Korea is still a force to be reckoned with,” said Glyn Davies, who served as a special representative for North Korea during the Obama administration, in a recent International Crisis Group webinar.
  • U.S. intelligence says North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear program since President Trump’s two summits with Kim, which did not yield a deal on denuclearization.

Flashback: South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an advocate of warmer ties with North Korea, also held a series of summits with Kim in 2018.

  • Just two years later, one symbol of the friendlier relations those three meetings seemed to signal has been exploded. Others are now being actively militarized.

Go deeper: Kim Jong-un finally reappears

Go deeper

Sep 14, 2020 - World

America's role in the world undecided heading into election

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto, and Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In 50 days, America will either double down on the disruptive force of America First or elect a man vowing to put the international order back together again.

Why it matters: America still has the world's biggest economy, most powerful military and deepest network of alliances. But it is unclear what it intends to do with them.

1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

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