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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

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

40 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).