China

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While nuclear testing paused, North Korean cyber threat still looms

Kim Jong-un standing outside near a stone wall
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi on March 2, 2019. Photo: Jorge Silva/AFP/Getty Images

Prohibitive risks may have deterred further nuclear and ballistic missile tests by North Korea, even as it has continued expanding its arsenal. While that freeze remains in place, the regime may opt to accelerate its use of cyber weapons.

The big picture: A nuke test would infuriate China, and launching an ICBM could precipitate a U.S. military strike. But cyberattacks offer a high-impact, low-cost and comparatively low-risk way to generate cash and intimidate other countries.

Scoop: Chinese block visit of Trump confidant

A briefcase with Chinese stars stuck in it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China recently declined to issue a visa to Michael Pillsbury, an informal adviser to President Trump on China policy, in an unusual move that comes as the Trump administration steps up its scrutiny of Chinese experts attempting to travel to the U.S.

Why it matters: Trump has praised Pillsbury, a hawkish former Pentagon official and author, as "the leading authority on China." Pillsbury regularly discusses China with Trump, including during an Oval Office meeting about a month ago. Pillsbury told Axios he has visited China over 50 times since the 1970s and this is the first time his visa request hasn't been approved.