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Korea is the land of lousy options and the Trump team has lurched from one preferred course of action to another. First there were threats of military action, followed by hints of financial sanctions against Chinese and North Korean entities, and then more recently, (misplaced) hope by the President himself that China would step in and solve the North Korea problem for Washington.

Why it matters: The early confidence of the Trump team has gradually receded as it becomes clear the complex and unyielding dynamic of the Korean peninsula is impervious to quick and easy fixes. Nothing could have made this point more poignantly than the tragic return and subsequent death of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student wrongly imprisoned and mistreated by North Korean authorities.

  • However, President Trump's curious Twitter response to Warmbier's death — blaming the previous U.S. administration and expressing disappointment with China's inability to deliver a tamed North Korea — gives us a clue to what he can do.

Bottom line: Trump's tendency to go easy and even praise the brutal Kim Jong Un reveals his own hope for a future summit with the leader of the hermit kingdom. The Deal-Maker-in-Chief is looking for his own Nixon-to-China moment, where one defiant, authoritarian, cult of personality leader meets another.

Other voices:

Go deeper: Our Expert Voices conversation on North Korea

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 12 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.