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In April, Vice President Pence and his daughters look into North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette, near the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ. (Jung Yeon-Je / AFP / Getty Images)

Vice President Pence, leading the White House delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea this week, plans to try to disrupt any normalization of North Korea amid the feel-good setting of the games:

  • A Pence aide told me: "The Vice President will remind the world that everything the North Koreans do at the Olympics is a charade to cover up the fact that they are the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet."
  • "At every opportunity, the V.P. will point out the reality of the oppression in North Korea by a regime that has enslaved its people. We will not allow North Korea’s propaganda to hijack the messaging of the Olympics." 
  • "We are seeing unprecedented level of international cooperation on the maximum pressure strategy targeting the Kim regime, and the Vice President will make clear that this maximum pressure campaign will only intensify."
  • Another source told me: “North Korea wants to make this about cute photo ops. The Vice President is countering North Korea’s desire to control the message. … We’re not going to cede two weeks of world media to North Korea.”

Why it matters: With President Trump considering military options for North Korea, this message brings a hard edge to what's usually a diplomatic role.

Pence leaves for Asia midday tomorrow and returns next weekend, after stops in Japan and at the Olympics, for the Opening Ceremony and some first-day events:

  • On the way to Japan, get a briefing on missile-defense systems during a refueling stop in Alaska.
  • In Japan, Pence will have dinner with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and speak to U.S. troops at Yokota Air Base.
  • In South Korea, the V.P. will have dinner with President Moon Jae-in, and visit the Cheonan Memorial, marking 46 South Korean sailors lost in 2010 in an attack blamed on North Korea.
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Go deeper

School principals are not OK

Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) of New York's Yung Wing School P.S. 124 near a vaccination van in November. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of secondary school principals experienced frequent stress last school year, according to a RAND Corporation report out Wednesday.

The big picture: The stress levels among female principals and principals of color were especially stark, with nearly 40% in these groups reporting constant job-related stress, compared to about 24% of male principals and 26% of white principals.

It's official: Stock market having worst start to year ever

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's been a decidedly ugly start to the year for the stock market, with particular pain in the tech trade.

State of play: As of the end of trading Tuesday — the 16th session of the year — 2022 is now, officially, the worst-ever start in the history of the S&P 500, according to data from Ned Davis Research, a stock market research shop.

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.

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