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Kim departs from a summit with South Korea's president. Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images

North Korea has cancelled talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, and threatened to cancel next month's summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Why it matters: This is a dramatic change in tone from North Korea, which recently released three U.S. prisoners and began dismantling a nuclear test site as part of efforts to lay the groundwork for talks with Trump. North Korea has long viewed joint drills as rehearsals for invasion, but had remained uncharacteristically silent about exercises last month. Tuesday's objections were over an air force drill that began last week.

The statement, issued via the KCNA news agency, reads in part:

"This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula. The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had "no information" on what was behind the North Korean warning:

"What we have to go on is what Kim Jong-un had said before, that he understands and appeciates the importance to the United States of having these joint exercises ... we will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un."

The Pentagon emphasized that that exercises were routine:

"While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed." 

Between the lines: With one month to go before the summit, scheduled for June 12th in Singapore, North Korea appears to be testing the Trump administration's boundaries. Josh Pollack, editor of the non proliferation review, says North Korea objects to Trump's "maximum pressure" stance. "They want to see a change in tone from the US, and so far they’re not seeing it," he says.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker