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A North Korean feint? Kim, second from right. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty

As North Korea haggles over when it will eliminate its nuclear weapons assets, it may be playing for what it can get in exchange while already pivoting to a very different, equally dangerous weapons regime — cyber arms.

What's going on: David Maxwell, a retired Army officer and an expert on North Korea, tells Axios that any key American adversary — China, Iran, Russia or North Korea — is likelier to use cyber than nuclear arms in any war with the U.S.

  • The U.S. Justice Department today announced that it has filed cyber-hacking charges against Park Jin Hyok, an agent for North Korea's military intelligence arm, Axios' Joe Uchill reports.
  • The charges involve the hacking of Sony Pictures in 2014.
  • Park is linked to two other major cyber attacks as well — the WannaCry virus that last year infected computers around the world and a 2016 attempt to steal $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank.

The big question: "What if they are giving up their nuclear weapons because they have greater capability in cyber?" Maxwell asks. "Are they shifting their strategy focus to cyber?"

"Nuclear weapons aren't of practical use," he says. "But cyber is valuable, practical and useable. You can steal money and take down energy infrastructure." With WannaCry and the Sony Pictures attacks, "North Korea is conducting reconnaissance. They are seeing what they can get away with."

In a statement today, South Korea says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had given his first timeline for denuclearization, saying he wanted to complete it during President Trump's first term, Reuters' Hyonhee Shin and Susan Heavey report.

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

The quick FCC fix that would get more students online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic forces students out of school, broadband deployment programs aren't going to move fast enough to help families in immediate need of better internet access. But Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission say the incoming Biden administration could put a dent in that digital divide with one fast policy change.

State of play: An existing FCC program known as E-rate provides up to $4 billion for broadband at schools, but Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai has resisted modifying the program during the pandemic to provide help connecting students at home.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

America's hidden depression

Biden introduces his pick for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, on Dec. 1. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Biden faces a fragile recovery that could easily fall apart, as the economy remains in worse shape than most people think.

Why it matters: There is a recovery happening. But it's helping some people immensely and others not at all. And it's that second part that poses a massive risk to the Biden-Harris administration's chance of success.