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KRT via AP Video

White House officials think they're ready for this. But North Korea's successful ICBM launch came faster than they had hoped. As the N.Y. Times' David Sanger points out, the past six months have been "a brutal education for President Trump."

As Trump leaves the White House this morning en route to Europe for his second international swing, he's facing his most immediate global crisis — one where he's a central player, with experts across the spectrum stumped on the wisest steps.

The Wall Street Journal paints the best and worst cases: "Some analysts cautioned that North Korea faces many technical hurdles before it has a fully operational nuclear-armed ICBM. ... Tokyo and Seoul could rely on Washington's nuclear deterrent. But with San Francisco potentially at risk, those allies could start to doubt the U.S.'s commitment."

The latest, from AP: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed [today] his nation will 'demonstrate its mettle to the U.S.' ... The hard line suggests more tests are being prepared as the country tries to perfect nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States."

  • "[A] successful launch of an ICBM has long been seen as a red line after which it would only be a matter of time if North Korea isn't stopped."
  • "Worry spread in Washington and at the United Nations, where the United States, Japan and South Korea requested an emergency U.N. Security Council session" today.
  • "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that the missile was an ICBM and said the U.S. response would include 'stronger measures to hold [North Korea] accountable.'"

"Options Are Few and Risky": The best look at the options (such as they are) is the two-column lead of the N.Y. Times, "North Korea Crosses a Line, But U.S. Has Few Options: Missile's Alarming New Reach Is Confirmed by Officials Now Facing Strategic Dilemma," a news analysis by David E. Sanger:

  • "A North Korean ability to reach the United States, as former Defense Secretary William J. Perry noted recently, 'changes every calculus.' The fear is not that Mr. Kim would launch a pre-emptive attack on the West Coast; that would be suicidal ... But if Mr. Kim has the potential ability to strike back, it will shape every decision Mr. Trump and his successors make about defending America's allies in the region."
  • Why it matters (Duh!): "[T]his latest test suggests that the United States may already be in range as well, and that, as one former top American intelligence official noted recently, would put enormous pressure on American missile defenses that few trust to work."

Go deeper: Axios Expert Voices charts five courses of action for the U.S. confrontation with North Korea.

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Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

10 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.