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Kim Jong-un. Photo: Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images

The Trump administration is debating onboarding a North Korean envoy to help handle potential negotiations with Pyongyang alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, one administration official told CNN. Seoul has announced that North Korea expressed interest in speaking with the U.S. about denuclearization in a potential breakthrough.

Why it matters: The State Department’s Special Representative for North Korea, Ambassador Joseph Yun, is leaving his post. The State Department lacks a permanent ambassador to Seoul, and the assistant secretary for East Asia is in place in an acting capacity and hasn’t yet been confirmed. But with such a delicate conversation, a point person may help negotiations along, per CNN.

  • The U.S. has had special envoys roles in the past for talks with North Korea and to deal with human rights issues in the country. The new special envoy would likely serve beneath any replacement for Yun.
  • What they're saying: State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert has said it's "simply wrong" to think no one other than Yun is "capable of handling North Korea."

But, but, but: Talks might not even take place. The U.S. has only heard from South Korea on the alleged North Korean proposal, a senior administration official told Axios. And the U.S. plans to continue its joint military drills with South Korea, which Pyongyang views as a rehearsal for invasion.

Go deeper: How North Korean diplomacy fails ... How we got here

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

5 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

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