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Wednesday
Jan102018

As Iran deal deadline approaches, Trump mulls next move

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the coming days, President Donald Trump is up against another consequential deadline on the Iran nuclear deal, just months after vowing to tear it up if Congress didn't move to fix it.

By Friday, the president must either once again sign waivers on Iranian sanctions -- and keep the nuclear accord alive -- or refuse to sign, effectively terminating U.S. participation in the agreement and setting off an international crisis.

Despite the past recommendations of his national security team, it's something he has threatened to do repeatedly.

The waivers are on the nuclear sanctions the U.S. agreed to lift as part of the 2015 agreement between the U.S., Iran, the European Union, China, Russia, Germany, the U.K., and France. As part of America's commitment under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, they must be re-signed periodically for varying lengths of time; some come up every 90 days, others 120 or 180.

Trump has reluctantly done so nearly half a dozen times so far, usually while slapping Iran with new, non-nuclear sanctions that do not violate the deal.

But this will be the first time the president is faced with the decision since announcing his new Iran strategy in dramatic fashion last October -- when he threatened to terminate the deal unless Congress made some "fixes."

The sanctions waivers must be signed by close of business on Friday, January 12. As is customary, the Secretary of State has been designated to sign the waivers, so Rex Tillerson will be the one to notify Congress of the administration’s decision Friday -- but only after Trump consults with his national security team and makes the final call.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that no final decision has been made, but she expects one in the coming days. Trump and his national security team are expected to meet again to discuss the issue this week.

In that big October speech, the president refused to certify the Iran nuclear deal, telling Congress that the sanctions relief to Iran was greater than the advantages to U.S. national security.

But certification is a requirement of U.S. law, not the JCPOA itself -- so nothing changed in the deal as, despite Trump's tough words, the U.S. still kept its commitments to it.

Instead, Trump threatened to "terminate" the deal if Congress didn't make changes, such as addressing Iran's ballistic missile program, which the agreement does not cover, or the expiration of certain limits on Iran's nuclear program.

The challenge, however, is that Congress did not write the deal and cannot now change it. Any changes they agree with the President to put into law could end up putting the U.S. in a material breach of the agreement -- with European allies already warning that certain changes would be unacceptable.

Either way, there’s been almost no movement toward a legislative fix since that speech, according to sources on Capitol Hill. Even if Congress does somehow come up with legislation that both appeases the president and doesn't violate the deal, it certainly won't be ready by the end of this week.

Instead, the President will have to make a decision before Friday -- sign the waivers and keep the deal alive with no fix in sight, or put the U.S. in violation and threaten an international crisis.

If the U.S. breaches its commitments, Iran might resume its uranium enrichment programs, sparking new concerns about a nuclear stand-off in the Middle East.

The regime in Tehran could also complain to the European signatories to the deal, who support its continued implementation and have advised the Trump administration against tearing it up or making any changes to it -- further driving a wedge between the U.S. and its historic European allies.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan102018

Tsunami advisory in the Caribbean canceled 

DigitalVision Vectors/ Getty(NEW YORK) -- A Tsunami warning in the Caribbean has been canceled after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit in the Caribbean Sea north of Honduras late Tuesday night.

The warning was in affect for several hours  for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after the earthquake occurred.

The Island of Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria which devastated the island in September of last year. 

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Japanese astronaut gets a scare after initially measuring 3 inches taller in space

iStock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- After Norishige Kanai, a Japanese astronaut, initially measured over 3 inches taller since arriving in space, he worried he wouldn't be able to return home.

Kanai, who arrived at the ISS on Dec. 19, according to a press release, first posted on Twitter that he thought he'd grown more than 3.5 inches in the three weeks since his arrival at the International Space Station.

In his tweet, Kanai said the crew had their bodies measured after reaching space and initial measurements put him at over 3.5 inches taller than on Earth, making the astronaut fearful because the Soyuz spacecraft he needs to use to come home has a height limit.

However, Kanai re-measured himself and, in a follow-up tweet, said he came in at a much more normal 0.79 inches. (Astronauts grow anywhere from .79 inches to 1.97 inches in space on average.)

In a later tweet, Kanai clarified the initial measurement was an error and apologized for sending out "fake news" after some news reports said he'd grown more than 3 inches.

Clayton Anderson, a former NASA astronaut, told ABC News that getting taller in space is normal. During his last trip in April 2010, he said he grew 2 inches.

“On Earth, gravity pulls on you, and so your spine is compressed,” Anderson said. “When you go into space, gravity is lessened and so your body begins to stretch.”

But taking measurements in space is far from scientific. As Anderson explained it, one must lie as stiff as a board and someone else holds the person by their feet so they don’t float away. Then a third person measures the first person's height. He said what likely happened is Kanai’s height was measured incorrectly the first time.

When asked if Kanai should be concerned about making it back to Earth, Anderson said he is not worried because once you return to Earth your spine shrinks back to normal.

“[Kanai] won’t be dunking in the NBA anytime soon,” he said, “but he’ll come back just fine.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Meghan Markle closes social media accounts after engagement to Prince Harry

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle has closed all her social media accounts nearly four months before her May wedding to Prince Harry.

Markle, who once ran a blog and had an active social media presence, had slowly scaled back her activity on the accounts when her relationship with Prince Harry became increasingly serious.

“Ms. Markle is grateful to everyone who has followed her social media accounts over the years,” a royal source told ABC News. “However, as she has not used them for some time she has taken the decision to close them.”

Markle, 36, frequently posted photos of her home, her dogs, her travels and food on Instagram, and shared information about her activism and charitable work and other interests on Twitter.

She also authored a blog, The Tig, that she shut down in April as her romance with Harry became even more serious.

Members of the royal family share details of official royal engagements on the various official social media accounts operated by Kensington Palace, Clarence House and Buckingham Palace.

The palace social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide information on upcoming royal tours and events, new videos and photos, and details on the royal family’s charitable endeavors. Recently, Kensington Palace released the couple's engagement photos and official photos of Prince William, Princess Kate and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Shortly after Harry and Markle's engagement, Kensington Palace also announced that Markle would no longer carry on her charitable work with World Vision and as a UN advocate and would join of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry, as the main vehicle for their philanthropic activities.

Markle, a Los Angeles native, also intends to become a U.K. citizen, a process which will take several years.

She also ended her seven-year run on the television show “Suits” prior to announcing her engagement to Harry. Last year, she also ended her partnership with Canadian department store Reitman’s for a fashion line. She recently moved from Toronto, where “Suits” is filmed, to London to live with Harry.

The couple is planning to wed on May 19, 2018, at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

US officials still stumped on mystery illnesses in Cuba, open door to 'viral' or 'ultrasound' cause

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- State Department officials told Congress Tuesday they would not rule out "an acoustic element" in what the U.S. says were attacks on two dozen American diplomats in Cuba, despite a new FBI report that doubts a “sonic attack” is responsible.

The different views come as the U.S. government remains utterly stumped about what happened to 24 of its personnel at its embassy in Havana who have reported symptoms similar to mild traumatic brain injury. Officials now say “a range of things” could be responsible, including “viral” or “ultrasound” attacks.

Todd Brown, Diplomatic Security Assistant Director for International Programs at the State Department, would not comment on the FBI report Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but said he "wouldn't rule out an acoustic element entirely."

"I'm not claiming that it's acoustic. I just know there's been an acoustic element associated with the sensations and the feelings," Brown told the committee. "Whether if the FBI has determined that is not the case -- which I have not seen this report, and I don't think it's been released publicly -- that doesn't mean an acoustic element couldn't be part of another type of style of attack here."

Brown said technical experts are looking at a "range of things" that could be associated with the alleged attacks, including "viral" and "ultrasound."

The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the Americans’ symptoms and even rejected the idea that there have been attacks.

A State Department official told ABC News on Monday that they "do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks," as the investigation is ongoing. Separately, a government official familiar with the investigation told ABC News that the FBI has not been able to determine what caused the injuries to U.S. personnel.

The FBI has made four trips to Havana, Cuba and is preparing for a fifth, after interviewing 37 people and examining more than 80 employees and family members from the U.S. mission.

What is currently known


All 24 Americans have been medically confirmed to have symptoms consistent with what looks like a mild traumatic brain injury, according to Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, Medical Director for the Bureau of Medical Services at the State Department.

As ABC News previously reported, those symptoms included sharp, localized ear pain, dull unilateral headache, ringing in one ear, vertigo, visual focusing issues, disorientation, nausea, and extreme fatigue, according to Rosenfarb.

While some symptoms went away in days or weeks, other individuals reported persistent problems, including difficulty concentrating, recurring headaches, hearing loss, sleep disturbance, and imbalance while walking, Rosenfarb said.

A senior State Deptartment official confirmed that point, telling ABC News that as of now, most of the 24 Americans are better, but some have “permanent” damage. illnesses.

The first cases occurred as early as November 2016 and, in the beginning, attacks appeared in “clusters,” with several incidents occurring within a matter of days. From late March to late April of 2017, they occurred more sporadically before appearing to stop. After a period of with attacks, there were two additional incidents were reported in close proximity in late August, which were medically confirmed in late September, according to Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary with the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

In response to the alleged attacks, the U.S. first approached Cuba in mid-February to demand protection for its staff. Cuba denied involvement and began its own investigation. In May 2016, After the alleged attacks continued, the U.S. expelled two Cuban diplomats, followed by nearly two-thirds of the Cuban embassy in October.

Guaranteeing Americans' safety in Cuba

Brown told Congress that the safety of American diplomats in Cuba could not be guaranteed.

“I’d be intentionally putting [U.S. diplomats] back in harm’s way. Why in the world would I do that when I have no means whatsoever to protect them?” Tillerson said. “I will push back on anybody who wants to force me to do that.”

In mid-April, Tillerson granted “no fault curtailment,” meaning employees could leave if they felt unsafe. But on Sept. 29, he ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel from the U.S. mission in Havana. Essential personnel still remain, but the State Department will be forced to decide in the coming months whether to shutter the embassy or return employees.

Brown said that there are "teams in place that can respond" to questions from those who remain in Cuba, as well as explain "how to report those types of incidents."

"Certainly not knowing what's causing it, or who's behind it, or how it's being done, it gives us very little in terms of mitigation," he said.

Since August, there have been no reported incidents.

The Accountability Review Board

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questioned the officials about why an Accountability Review Board was not established after the State Department knew by May that "several" American diplomats had suffered a serious injury.

Rubio said that, by law, the State Department would have 120 days to establish that board after learning of the injuries, but failed to do so.

Palmieri responded that information known at the time was later contradicted and that the government had not been able to identify who perpetrated the attacks. He said it was only after late August -- after another round of attacks -- that it became "apparent" the State Department should establish an Accountability Review Board.

Tillerson ordered for that board to be convened on Dec. 11, and Palmieri said Congress should receive notification of the board soon.

What the Cuban government knew

Palmieri told the committee that he found it beyond belief that the Cuban government was not aware of the attacks.

"It's incomprehensible to us that they are not aware of how and who is responsible, and that they cannot take steps to prevents these kind of attacks from ever happening again," he said.

Palmieri acknowledged a "long history and pattern of Cuban harassment of U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana," adding it was "entirely possible" the government could have escalated their harassment to cause these attacks.

"In whatever case, they are responsible for the safety and security of U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana under the Vienna Convention," Palmieri said. "And they have failed to live up to that responsibility."

Both Rubio and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., questioned the officials about the possible involvement of Russia.

Palmieri would not say publicly whether the State Department had raised the alleged attacks against its personnel in Cuba with the Russian government.

When asked by Rubio about similar documented attacks against Americans during the Cold War, Rosenfarb acknowledged there were cases in the 1950s and 60s in which microwave beams were used against Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

"The Cuban government either did this, or they know who did this," Rubio concluded.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Bombing in Syria leaves civilians, including children, buried under rubble

iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS) -- The following contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dramatic rescue photos emerged from Eastern Ghouta, Syria, Tuesday after air strikes left residents, including children, buried under the rubble.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 18 people were killed in Tuesday’s attack, which was near Damascus, and at least 132 killed since Dec. 29. The Syrian Civil Defense group, Syrian paramedics more commonly known the White Helmets, said its members dug out children and adults, and a video posted by the group showed rescuers pulling a baby from underneath the rubble.

The rebel-held area has been the target of nearly daily regime bombardment in recent days as government forces increase the pressure.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Pilots fired after reported fight in cockpit on New Year’s Day

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- India’s Jet Airways has fired two of its pilots after they reportedly fought inside the cockpit, and at times abandoned their posts, on a New Year’s Day flight.

A spokesperson for the airline told ABC News in a statement Tuesday that after reviewing reported events on board Flight 9W 119 from London to Mumbai on Jan. 1, "Jet Airways has terminated services of both the cockpit crew with immediate effect."

The spokesperson did not give any additional details about the events what events prompted the firing, but the Times of India reported last week that a male pilot allegedly slapped the female co-pilot in the cockpit mid-flight, “after which she left the cockpit in tears.”

The news outlet said the male pilot twice "left the flight unmanned when when he came out to persuade her to return to the controls."

Last week, Jet Airways told ABC News that, "A misunderstanding occurred between the cockpit crew" and that is "was quickly resolved amicably."

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation was not available for comment before publication.

The airline said in a previous statement that the flight, which was carrying 324 passengers and 14 crew members, landed safely.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Everything you need to know about the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images(PYEONGCHAN, South Korea) -- Sports enthusiasts and the world's best athletes alike are gearing up for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Here's everything you need to know about the major international multi-sport event.

When does the 2018 Winter Olympics begin?

Competition for the Games begins Feb. 8, and opening ceremonies will be held the next day.

Closing ceremonies will take place Feb. 25.

Which city is hosting?

Pyeongchang will host the 23rd Olympic Winter Games. The South Korean city won the right to hold the Games after two previously unsuccessful attempts, this time beating top bids from Annecy, France, and Munich, Germany.

Pyeongchang is located some 80 miles east of the country's capital, Seoul, and about 60 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone dividing North Korea and South Korea.

Opening and closing ceremonies will occur at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, a temporary venue that can seat 35,000 spectators. All competition venues are located within 30 minutes driving distance from the stadium.

The Pyeongchang Olympic village will house up to 3,894 athletes and team officials during the 2018 Winter Games, while a second village in Gangneung will accommodate more than 2,900 personnel.

It's the second time the Olympics will be held in South Korea; Seoul was the host city for the Summer Olympics in 1988.

The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924.

How can you watch?


Those in the United Kingdom can watch the Games via BBC on television and online. Check ABCNews.com for updates.

What are the events?

The 2018 Winter Olympics will feature 102 events in 15 sport disciplines. The sports include bobsleigh, curling, figure skating, luge, snowboard and ski jumping.

The International Olympic Committee added some new events for the 2018 Winter Olympics: big air snowboarding, freestyle skiing, mass start speed skating and mixed doubles curling.

Russia is banned from the Games. Why?


The International Olympic Committee announced in December that it was barring Russia's national Olympic committee from the 2018 Winter Olympics as a punishment for its alleged state-sponsored cover-up of doping by its athletes. Some Russian athletes will still be allowed to participate in the Games by competing individually under a neutral Olympic flag.

The International Olympic Committee said its report had not found any evidence that the Kremlin was aware of the doping cover-up, but confirmed the findings of previous investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those investigations uncovered evidence that Russia had concealed doping by hundreds of its athletes for years, aided by the country's intelligence services. The cover-up reached a crescendo during the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Russia in Sochi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government won't prevent athletes from competing in 2018 Winter Olympics under a neutral flag, but he questioned the premise of the ban if the International Olympic Committee concluded there was no state-sponsored system of doping.

"Punish those who are to blame," Putin said last month. "And secondly, if there is no state support of doping, then why can't we compete under our national symbols? That, of course, is a big question."

What do the medals look like?

South Korean designer Lee Suk-woo created the medals for the 2018 Games.

Inspired by the texture of tree trunks, the medals feature a design of dynamic diagonal lines and three-dimensional characters from Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. The teal and red ribbon from which the medal hangs was made using Gapsa, a traditional South Korean fabric, and is embroidered with Hangeul patterns and other designs.

The gold medal weighs the most at 586 grams. A total of 259 sets of medals have been made for the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to the Games official website.

What is the mascot?


A white tiger named Soohorang is the mascot of the this year's Winter Olympics. The white tiger has been long considered a guardian in Korean history and culture, according to the Games website.

"Sooho," meaning "protection" in Korean, symbolizes the protection offered to the athletes, spectators and other participants of the Games. "Rang" comes from the middle letter of" Ho-rang-i," the Korean word for "tiger," and is also the last letter of "Jeong-seon A-ri-rang," a traditional folk song of Gangwon province, which governs Pyeongchang, according to the Games website.

Who pays for the Olympics?

A 2016 report entitled "The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games" found the Olympic Games held over the previous decade each have cost $8.9 billion on average. Factoring in only sports-related costs, the most expensive Summer Games were in London in 2012, which totaled $15 billion; the most costly Winter Games -- at $21.9 billion -- were in Sochi in 2012, according to the report.

Taxpayers of the hosting city foot a good chunk of the bill.

The privately-funded International Olympic Committee retains 10 percent of its revenue from its broadcast agreements and global sponsorship. The committee distributes the other 90 percent to support the staging of the Olympic Games and to promote the worldwide development of the sport. These funds include money for national Olympic committees and financial support to countries.

The International Olympic Committee contributed $833 million to support the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to a report by the committee.

Will the Pyeongchang Games be safe?

The issue of security looms over the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea amid sky-high tensions with neighboring North Korea, which conducted over a dozen ballistic missile tests in the past year.

In a Dec. 6 interview with Fox News, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the situation with North Korea is "changing by the day" and it was an "open question" whether American athletes would be able to attend the Winter Games.

A day later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified Haley's comment said via Twitter, saying, "The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues."

On Jan. 2, for the first time in two years, North Korea restored communications via a direct military hotline with South Korea to discuss potentially sending a North Korean delegation to the Games.

“We see no point in a dialogue that only discusses the Pyeongchang Olympics without talking about the nuclear issue,” said Jeong Tae-ok, a spokesman for South Korea's main opposition, the Liberty Korea Party. “North Korea will surely make unreasonable demands, starting from wanting to be recognized as a nuclear state."

South Korea is bolstering up security ahead of the Winter Olympics. The defense ministry plans to deploy approximately 5,000 armed forces personnel to the Games. Hundreds of armed personnel have also participated in security drills in front of Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium to prepare against terror attacks, according to Reuters.

South Korean's immigration office has deported at least "17 foreigners who could potentially pose a terrorist menace to the Olympics," according to Seoul-based newspaper The Korea Times.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Rare snowfall hits the Sahara Desert

ABC News(AIN SEFRA, Algeria) -- Ain Sefra is a small town on the northern edge of the Sahara, the hottest desert in the world, but on Sunday the town's sand dunes were coated with snow after an intense winter storm.

Photographs from local residents showed stunning scenes of vivid orange dunes dusted with snowfall. Algerian locals wearing coats and scarves were seen climbing the peaks, cheering loudly and posing for videos. Many brought cameras to record the rare wintry phenomenon before the snow began to melt later in the evening.

This is believed to be only the fourth time snow has fallen on Ain Sefra in northern Algeria in almost 40 years, according to Algerian media reports.

In 1979 a short storm blanketed the region in heavy snow, and snow has returned in recent years.

Ain Sefra is known as “The Gateway to the Desert” because of its location on the edge of the Sahara, where temperatures reach well over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. Nestled in the Atlas mountain range, the town is surrounded by hills and towering sand dunes, the highest of which appeared to be completely covered in snow.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jan082018

North and South Korea agree to talk with goal to ‘relieve military tensions’

Liu Xingzhe/VCG via Getty Images(SEOUL) -- North and South Korea will open talks to “relieve military tensions,” the two countries announced Tuesday in a joint agreement.

The announcement included two other main points:

That the North will send athletes and a high-level delegation to the Winter Olympics next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and that the two countries will solve “national problems on our own.”

As for the Olympics, which begins Feb. 9, North Korea will send an "Olympic delegation, athletes, cheerleaders, artists, spectators, Taekwondo demonstration team and press corps," the joint agreement said. South Korea "will guarantee convenience" and "working level meetings will follow," while a "date will be decided later," it said.

Officials from North Korea had earlier accepted South Korea's offer to send athletes to next month's Winter Olympics, the two sides previously announced, as they held long-anticipated talks Tuesday.

South Korea proposed the two countries march together in the Opening Ceremonies, but that offer has yet to be accepted.

In their opening statement, South Korea mentioned further denuclearization talks between the two countries, but the point was not acknowledged by North Korean officials in early discussions.

"In addition, we proposed resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and holding inter-Korean Red Cross talks to discuss this," Chun Hae-sung, South Korean vice unification minister, said after the morning talks. "Along with this, we also proposed holding inter-Korean military talks designed to reduce animosities in frontline areas."

Negotiations were continuing on those proposals by the South.

North Korea officially had agreed to send the athletes, officials and reporters to the games, as well as its cheerleading group and taekwondo demonstration athletes. The two sides said they would negotiate over whether their cheerleading groups would perform as one.

Five representatives from the highest levels of both governments -- including South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and the North Korean chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, Ri Son-gwon -- kicked off by meeting with a symbolic crossing by the northern delegation into the South-controlled building called House of Peace.

The two top leaders of the delegation were not involved in afternoon talks as the sides ironed out the details of the agreement.

Neither president is in attendance, but the South's leader, President Moon Jae-in, will be watching the talks on CCTV live with audio. His counterpart, Kim Jong Un, can only listen and not watch.

Journalists from both countries reported on the meeting by the minute, and described the mood as "good." At 10 a.m. South Korean time, the officials shook hands and took their seats.

In his opening remarks, Ri made the surprising suggestion of broadcasting the talks live to show how they are "efforting to work" on the talks "in a transparent manner."

"We want to give the entire nation a New Year's present with a precious conclusion," he said, referring to both countries.

South Korea's Cho, however, said the talks should be closed, and they would perhaps show them live later if necessary.

The talks will focus on, among other things, who will bear the costs for the trip and the size of the North Korean delegation.

These are the first inter-Korean talks in 25 months. They come just eight days after the North Korean leader announced he would like to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics during his annual New Year's Day speech.

The South welcomed the proposal and followed up by reconnecting the direct communication link at the joint security area between the two Koreas.

The Reaction was mixed among the South Koreans who ABC News interviewed about the talks.

"I think it's good that North and South are actually talking at last," student Jiwon Kim, 26, told ABC News. "The last two regimes in South Korea did not have a chance to [reconcile] with North Korea. Maybe this will lead to talks about peace or could lead to reunification between the two Koreas. I think the talks signal an important start."

North Korea sent a delegation to the Summer Olympics in 2016 but last sent a team to the Winter Olympics in 2010, skipping the 2014 games held in Sochi, Russia.

As proposed for 2018, North Korea and South Korea marching together in the Opening Ceremonies is not unheard of. The two countries marched under the Korean Unification Flag during the Summer Olympics in 2000 and 2004, and the Winter Olympics in 2006. The countries competed separately each time.

The talks also come as U.S. President Donald Trump is having a war of words with Kim -- recently taunting the North Korean leader by saying his "nuclear button" was "much bigger & more powerful" than his. The two countries have traded insults for months, with South Korea stuck in the middle.

"I am seriously worried about South Korea's future," Seoul resident and businesswoman Eun-Young Kim, 51, told ABC News. "Looking at the North-South talks that have been organized so abruptly after Kim Jong Un's decision, South Korea seems to be in the palm of North Korea's hands.

 
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