Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A stroll in Singapore. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is staying the course on North Korea despite the lack of any tangible progress toward denuclearization, canceling another round of military exercises with South Korea and moving ahead with plans for a second summit with Kim Jong-un in the new year.

Where things stand: Van Jackson, a former Pentagon strategist and author of the new book "On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War," contends there is a “close to 0% chance” of denuclearization while Trump is president, and the situation remains “as dangerous or more dangerous” than it was last year.

  • “You are not in a stable situation if you rely on the whims and the caprice of individual leaders to prevent nuclear war,” Jackson told Axios.
  • “Trump and Kim have personalized this nuclear confrontation in such a way that their personal chemistry holds all the rest of us hostage, because the underlying situation hasn’t changed.”

One of the central arguments in Jackson’s book is that “maximum pressure” did not bring Kim to the table. He says maximum pressure precipitated the crisis, and North Korean nuclear breakthroughs ended it by essentially ruling out preventative war.

  • “The crisis really started at the end of the Obama administration, because the more we ratcheted up sanctions and targeted them specifically against his regime’s elites," Jackson says, "he matched that with pressure of his own, to move ahead full force to develop a nuclear capability that could reach the U.S.”
  • "He crossed the nuclear threshold before we could stop him,” Jackson says. “Kim ended the crisis with a charm offensive, from a position of strength.”

Jackson argues that the aim now should be “maximum stability.”

“What needs to happen is what’s politically hardest to do, which is to acknowledge that North Korea’s not going to give up nukes, and therefore pursue dialogue aimed at arms control. So you’re focused explicitly on capping and rolling back the nuclear arsenal.”

The belief among Korea watchers that Kim would be a reformer because he went to school in Switzerland was "a theory based on hopes or desires," Jackson says. He says Kim understands that North Korea has "endured a hell of a lot over decades to get to this point" and would have to make itself "existentially vulnerable" to move ahead with denuclearization.

  • Even if Kim was willing to do so, Jackson says, he wouldn't strike a deal with an "anomalous" and erratic president who couldn't possibly "ensure continuity" into future administrations. More likely, Jackson argues, Kim will play for time “because he knows Trump is playable.”

What to watch …

  • Jackson says Trump and Kim both “reaped massive benefits personally” from the Singapore summit, but "didn’t actually agree to anything." Now, "at the working level there’s just no movement.”
  • He says the North Koreans aren’t even passing the lowest possible bar: “There are facilities that we know about, that North Korea knows we know about … and yet they don’t admit they exist.” The Trump administration’s recent decision to significantly restrict access to North Korea intelligence, he adds, is a pretty clear sign the intelligence isn’t pointing in a positive direction.

Bottom line: “Kim can be a reformer in the inter-Korean sense and not a reformer in the nuclear sense. That might be the most likely outcome of all of this — that North and South Korea move closer together and the U.S.-Korean alliance becomes more tenuous, and nothing changes on the nuclear side. That seems to be where momentum is heading right now.”

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.