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Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Photo: Vincenzo Lombardo / Getty Images

President Trump has thrust himself into a precarious diplomatic situation by unexpectedly agreeing to meet in the coming weeks with Kim Jong-un.

The big questions: North Korea put a lot on the table, according to South Korean officials — denuclearization, a testing freeze and acceptance of U.S.-South Korea military drills. The U.S. hasn't even made its opening bid. So what does Trump choose to believe from Kim, and what's he willing to offer to make a deal?

Issues to navigate
  • The optics: If the U.S. does come to the negotiating table, it might show North Korea the U.S. sees it as an equal, even if that's not the intent. That's one big, tacit concession to the Kim regime — North Korea has long-wanted to be seen as a major player on the world stage.
  • The details: Virtually no trust exists between these countries, and no conversations have yet taken place about nuclear site inspection, for example. Disagreements over site inspection have doomed previous talks.
  • Diplomatic telephone: Trump got his information on Thursday night second hand, from the South Koreans. The more channels a message goes through, the more opportunities it has to stray from the truth.
  • Follow the leader: Suzanne DiMaggio, who has been leading unofficial conversation between the U.S. and North Korea, tweets, "Right now, [Kim Jong-un] is setting the agenda & the pace, & the Trump admin is reacting. The admin needs to move quickly to change this dynamic."
  • Staffing issues: The Special Representative for North Korea is leaving his post, the U.S. lacks a permanent ambassador to Seoul, the assistant secretary for East Asia hasn’t yet been confirmed and a Special Envoy role used during previous talks is vacant.

The bottom line: There is no playbook for talks like these, and anyone who says they know exactly what North Korea is up to is lying.

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.