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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

North Korea's launch of a missile that appears capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. is an early test of the Trump administration's relationship with China, and the goodwill reinforced during President Trump's November meetings with General Secretary Xi Jinping in Beijing. But even if Xi wants to help, there are no good options.

Reality check: China doesn't actually have that much leverage with North Korea, and until the regime is interested in negotiations, even more help from China isn't going to help the U.S. solve the crisis.

North Korea does not appear interested in talks at this point. As expert Andrei Lankov has argued repeatedly:

"Pyongyang decision-makers see the ability to hit the United States as their best, and perhaps only, guarantee of long-term political survival. They are not going to stop testing until they reach that goal."

President Trump has threatened new sanctions, but so far none have been announced. And Beijing is resisting renewed calls from the administration to cut off the supply of oil to North Korea.

China has less leverage than Trump seems to believe. Xi Jinping is very unhappy with Kim Jong-un, and the special envoy he recently dispatched to Pyongyang was treated poorly and did not get a meeting with Kim.

China's main leverage point with North Korea is the supply of oil — but Beijing is wary of shutting it off out of concern that Pyongyang could turn on Beijing.

What to watch: If China does not at least reduce the oil supply to North Korea, expect the U.S. to sanction a major Chinese financial institution, such as China Merchants Bank or the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, to "punish" Chinese inaction. But that could backfire, as the anger in Beijing may lead China to halt any cooperation with the U.S. over North Korea.

The bottom line: China is not going to fix this problem. The U.S. either accepts a nuclear North Korea and sits down for negotiations once Kim is willing to talk, attempts a deterrence strategy that allows the region to live with a nuclear North Korea, or launches a pre-emptive war.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump-backed Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified Georgia 2020 results

Perdue at a December 2020 campaign event in Columbus, Ga. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue wouldn’t have signed the certification of the state’s 2020 election results if he had been governor at the time, the former Senate Republican told Axios.

  • “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for," he said.

Why it matters: There has been no evidence widespread fraud took place in Georgia's elections last year and the November results were counted three times, once by hand.

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.