Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A second meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been tentatively set for later in February. But recent assessments suggest North Korea remains “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” as director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told senators last week.

President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un at their summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Why it matters: Trump’s summit could be doomed not by Kim’s mercurial personality but by its impossible objective. Pyongyang may now be too close to its decades-long goal — fielding an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead — for any carrot or stick to change its course.

Where it stands: North Korea has demonstrated that it possesses both nuclear weapons and an ICBM with sufficient range to strike any target on the U.S. mainland. It has not yet unveiled a delivery vehicle that can survive atmospheric re-entry before detonating, but protracted and inconclusive negotiations with the U.S could provide time to overcome any remaining challenges.

  • Simply by agreeing to meet, Kim has neutralized Trump's threats last year to strike his nuclear and ballistic missile facilities. As a bonus, he has garnered international legitimacy while dividing the U.S. from South Korea.

Between the lines: The failure of four U.S. administrations to stop this threat stems from an assumption that Pyongyang is motivated by a search for security.

  • Yet the regime has not faced a significant threat since war ended in 1953, other than in response to its unilateral aggression. Instead, it seeks a war-fighting capability to dominate the South and even the region. And there is little evidence North Korea faces economic difficulties crippling enough to compel it to relinquish its nuclear achievements.
  • The worst misconception has been to see an ally in China, which has facilitated the threat's growth by ensuring the regime’s security from attack and undermining any sanctions that threatened its economy. China also benefits from Washington's floundering on the world stage while its public appeals for help from Beijing go unanswered.

The bottom line: It may be too late to prevent North Korea from arming itself with the capacity to destroy U.S. cities. Should it test a prototype, the resulting crisis could spark yet another round of escalating threats and U.S. warnings of military action, to be deflated by a new North Korean proposal to negotiate. More brinkmanship and frenzied alarm, all on Pyongyang’s timetable, remain the most likely outcomes.

Doug Seay is a former senior staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.