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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

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — considered the world's largest by volume. Park officials wrapped the trees in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. And officials said early Sunday protection efforts appeared to be working.

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U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
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All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

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