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Richard Drew / AP

Rex Tillerson started the UN Security Council meeting on North Korea today with a strong statement: "normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable." He urged other council members to swiftly enact new strategies to handle North Korea's nuclear threats, threatening sanctions on countries that support their activities.

I urge this council to act before North Korea does.Rex Tillerson

The deal: North Korea has to dismantle its nuclear weapons and programs before the U.S. can even consider talks.

On regime change: "Our goal is not regime change…The U.S. believes in a future for North Korea."

Other nations can "downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea" since the North exploits its diplomatic relations to fund its nuclear activity.

On China's unique leverage: Tillerson called on the international community to suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers to their countries and implement bans on imports, like coal. "China, accounting for 90% of trade, has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique…and particularly important."

Tillerson called for new sanctions to be implemented on North Korea and to tighten those already in place.

China's response: As China's Foreign Minister put it: "rock firm." But... "we also demand the U.S. and the ROK refrain from conducting or even expanding military exercises against the DPRK."

Tillerson's big question: Why does North Korea cling "to nuclear capabilities for which is has no need?"

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.