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.

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