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Kim Jong-un with South Korean chief delegator Chung Eui-yong. Photo: STR / AFP via Getty Images

Following discussions between South Korean and North Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea has expressed a willingness to discuss denuclearization with the U.S. if the safety of its regime is guaranteed, according to Bloomberg News. This is the first time since 2003 that the regime has floated denuclearization.

Other breakthroughs, per the AP: The Koreas have agreed to meet at a summit again in April and will establish a telephone hotline between their military leaders to avoid escalation. North Korea also agreed to a moratorium on its nuclear and missile tests if the U.S. comes to the table for direct talks, though President Trump has said negotiation will happen only after denuclearization.

"The North expressed its willingness to hold a heartfelt dialogue with the United States on the issues of denuclearization and normalizing relations with the United States. It made it clear that while dialogue is continuing, it will not attempt any strategic provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests."
— Statement from Seoul, via NYT

The big picture: Direct talks involving the U.S. would be a significant step forward, as recent discussions have just been with South Korea. Any viable solution would likely involve buy-in from other key players, including China and Japan.

How we got here...

  • North Korea knew it had to come to the negotiating table. This comes just after the U.S. slapped the biggest-ever sanctions package on the regime in addition to crippling rounds of international sanctions.
  • The two Koreas showed unity at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea and opened a dialogue, but the North Koreans scheduled and then cancelled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
  • South Korean negotiators spent Monday and Tuesday in Pyongyang engaged in talks with Kim Jong-un.
  • President Trump has greeted the news with cautious optimism on Twitter. But Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers, "I'm quite skeptical about all of this."

Go deeper: How North Korean diplomacy has failed in the past

Go deeper

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

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