Inside one of the largest hacking conferences in Russia

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) --  Earlier this week hundreds of aspiring hackers in Moscow faced off against one another in different challenges.

The event, called Positive Hack Days, is organized by the cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies. More than 4,000 people attended the cybersecurity conference, one of the largest in Russia. It's part discussion forum and part competition.

It takes place in a convention center in downtown Moscow, in the same arena where President Vladimir Putin gives his annual end-of-year press conference. Many of the competitions are focused around potential real-world hacks involving systems that have increasingly attracted attention as being vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In the center of one hall, a miniature model city had been built, made up mostly of critical infrastructure -- a hydroelectric dam, a railway system, a power-station. One task for hackers is to mount cyberattacks on the city’s infrastructure, trying to cause meltdowns or to derail the model trains that zip around the track.

In another event, hackers must try to seize control of a real ATM so that it will give out money; in another they can alter digital thermostats, tricking them into showing reduced usage and lower bills. Another stand replicates the control towers of an atomic power-station.

The competition culminates in “drunk hacking,” essentially a drinking game in which players race one another to break into a system. The slower team has to take a shot of vodka for each losing round.

Russian hackers have acquired an almost mythic status recently, following Russia’s interference campaign in the United States’ 2016 presidential election, where hackers working for Russian intelligence targeted the Democratic National Committee and also probed election infrastructure. At the same time, Russia and former Soviet countries have long been prolific sources of cyber-crime.

The hackers at the Moscow conference are so-called “white-hat” hackers or “ethical hackers,” the white knights of the cyber world, who use their skills to defend against criminals. The purpose of breaking into the ATM, for example, is to test for vulnerabilities which can then be fixed. Some of the hacker teams taking part are from major consultancy companies, such as Deloitte, as well cybersecurity firms. The event is also a place for firms to scout talent.

And there is talent on both sides of the criminal divide in Russia, a result in part of the Soviet legacy of strong engineering and mathematics education.

A study published in February by the anti-virus company McAfee and the Center for Strategy and International Studies (CSIS) described Russia as being the world leader in cybercrime. That position reflects "the skill of its hacker community and its disdain for western law enforcement," the report read, which added "the complex and close relationship between the Russian state and Russian organized crime means that Russia provides a sanctuary for the most advanced cybercriminals, whose attention focuses on the financial sector."

Andrey Kozlov, a 20-year-old computer security student who had flown 1,300 miles from the Siberian city of Tyumen to take part in the event, told ABC News: “I believe that Russian specialists are very in demand around the world.”

Asked what he would like to do when he finishes his studies, Kozlov responded with a laugh, “Russian hacker,” before adding that he would like to work at an audit firm. “For the good of humanity,” he said.

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Meghan Markle's dad will not attend her wedding to Prince Harry 

Ben Birchall - WPA Pool / Getty Images(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle’s father will not be on hand to watch his daughter marry Prince Harry Saturday at Windsor Castle, the bride-to-be said today.

“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Markle, 36, said in a statement from Kensington Palace. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.

“I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support,” the statement continued. “Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”

Markle has been told by her father, Thomas Markle Sr., that he is unable to travel because of medical advice from his doctors, royal sources told ABC News.

Markle had asked her dad to walk her down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel Saturday in front of an expected 600 guests.

Kensington Palace has not announced who will replace Markle's father, but there has been speculation that Harry's father, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, could step in if asked.

Markle's statement followed days of speculation about the role her father would play in the wedding after a British newspaper’s report that he staged paparazzi photos earlier this year near his home in Mexico.

Markle Sr., 73, reportedly told TMZ earlier this week he thought it was best to avoid his daughter’s wedding because he didn’t want to cause further embarrassment to his daughter and the royal family.

He then appeared to reverse course, reportedly telling TMZ, “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.”

That was followed by subsequent reports that he was scheduled to undergo major heart surgery to clear a blockage and repair damage to his heart, which occurred after he reportedly suffered a heart attack last week.

TMZ reported that Markle Sr. told them he believes the heart attack was brought on by an open letter his son Thomas Markle Jr., Markle’s estranged half-brother, wrote to Harry last month, encouraging him to call off the wedding.

Neither Thomas Markle Jr. nor his sister Samantha Grant Markle, Markle’s estranged half-sister, were invited to the wedding.

With Markle Sr.'s absence from the wedding, Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, is expected to be the only member of her family attending the wedding.

Ragland, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and social worker, arrived in London earlier this week and is spending the time before the wedding meeting Harry’s relatives and Harry and Markle’s closest friends.

Ragland is scheduled to travel with Markle on her wedding day from her overnight location to St. George’s Chapel. Kensington Palace has not commented on any changes to the wedding-day plan.

Markle is being supported by friends and, with Harry, looking forward to Saturday, according to royal sources.

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Venezuelans head to polls with great hunger, little hope 

iStock/Thinkstock(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuelans will head to the polls Sunday for a contested presidential election, one with incredibly high stakes and dismally low expectations.

The vote May 20 is the first time in just over five years that Venezuelans will get to choose a new president. Last time, in 2013, it was a special election following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Twenty years since Venezuelans put their hopes in Chavez and five years since his death, the country is consumed by one of the worst economic and humanitarian crises in the western hemisphere. Shortages of food and medicine have decimated the country, leaving an untold number dead or in deep poverty in what once was the richest country in South America.

But President Nicolas Maduro's appeal is still significant among voters, especially those who benefited from Chavez's education and poverty-reducing programs in the early 2000s. Maduro supporters attribute the current economic crisis to outside forces, including the effects of American sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

"The government of the United States is leading an economic war against Venezuela," Maduro said recently during a show on Venezuela's state-sponsored channel.

"Trust me ... and I will defeat the economic mafias, the smugglers and this economic war, I swear," he told supporters at a government rally on May Day.

Regional governments have called for Venezuela to cancel the election, while the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and several other Latin American nations have said they will not recognize the results. They claim a lack of transparency in the process and point to the difficulty in guaranteeing a free vote when Venezuela's electoral council and all branches of government are controlled by Maduro's party.

The election was originally planned for this December before a snap decision to move it to April, and then a compromise to postpone it to May.

Critics highlight the government's control of food distribution as a reason why the elections are a fraud. Food has become the main bargaining chip in Venezuela's current landscape -- and the government's control of food distribution has sparked worries that the government will try to buy votes with food or that voters will stay away from the polls due to fear of retribution if they don't vote for Maduro.

Last year, Venezuela was consumed by street protests hoping to force Maduro's resignation. Over 100 days of protests in the capital city of Caracas and across the country resulted in more than 124 deaths and thousands more injured, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. But even after months of protests, many Venezuelans still selected to move on with a government-sponsored constitutional assembly, effectively dissolving the then opposition-led legislature.

A splintered and effectively powerless opposition has fueled distrust among voters who want a change in government, turning voters and support away from even their most popular leaders. A decision from a coalition of opposition parties to boycott that vote and the constitutional assembly's victory further solidified Maduro's grip on power.

More than 5,300 protesters were detained, according to Foro Penal Venezolano, a Venezuelan legal aid group that documents human rights abuses and represented people who detained at the demonstrations.

The stakes

Inflation is set to hit 13,000 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which also predicts Venezuela's economy will contract by 15 percent in 2018 -- a record decline in gross domestic product of 50 percent in five years.

Steve H. Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute who is doing daily measuring of hyperinflation in Venezuela, estimates prices of goods in the country double every 17.5 days.

"The little people really suffer the most. ... All assets, even a bag of sugar is priced in dollars," he told ABC News. "[People] are being paid in bolivars and the bolivars are essentially if not worthless when they receive them, they’re going to be worthless within a few days."

Venezuela's collapsing economy and humanitarian crisis have spilled to neighboring nations. About a million Venezuelans left the country from 2015 to 2017, according to the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration, and hundreds of thousands more have left in the first three months of this year.

About 280,000 have made it south to Peru, the country's National Superintendent of Immigration told local media. ABC News has spoken to migrants who have saved for months to make the days-long trip -- the calamities and uncertainty of life abroad paling in comparison to life in a nation in collapse.

Under Venezuela's constitution, there are no term limits for the presidency. This means Maduro, or anyone elected, could get re-elected an unlimited number of times.

The candidates

The government-aligned Supreme Court has banned the main opposition party, along with its leaders, from running for political office. Maduro's opponent in 2013 -- Henrique Capriles Radonski -- is forbidden from seeking public office, as is opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been on house arrest since last summer after spending almost four years in a military jail.

With many opposition leaders out of the equation, three candidates will be on the ballot this Sunday:

NICOLAS MADURO: Maduro, 55, was Chavez's handpicked successor who eked out a razor-thin win against Capriles Radonski in the special election of 2013. A former bus driver, he went on to become Chavez's foreign minister and vice president before becoming acting president after Chavez's death and later elected president in April 2013. Chavez's memory looms large in the country, and many people see supporting Maduro as a way to keep Chavez's memory and influence alive.

HENRI FALCON: A former governor of the western state of Lara, 56-year-old Falcon has long been a fixture of the Venezuelan political scene. A Chavez protege before defecting from the government's party in 2010, Falcon worked with the opposition before setting off on his own for the election, which many opposition leaders are calling to boycott.

JAVIER BERTUCCI: The evangelical pastor says he's running to restore the country's values, and his campaign tactics are hitting Venezuelans where it matters most: their stomachs. Bertucci's rallies have often looked more like a soup kitchen than a political event, and he's seen an opening in capturing the votes from those who are disappointed at the government and feel disenfranchised by the opposition.

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Thousands of undelivered letters, some with 'heart-wrenching' stories, to be posted online

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) --  Thousands of letters from all over the world were never delivered between 1650 and 1815. Now hundreds of years later, the world will be able to read those undelivered letters.

Britain was involved in a series of wars during that period, and when they captured enemy ships, they seized about 160,000 letters in mailbags that never made it to their intended recipients.

The National Archives of the United Kingdom has partnered with the University of Oldenburg in Germany in a massive 20-year project to digitize the so-called Prize Papers and make them freely available.

The project, funded by Gottingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, launched this month. Archivists are preparing the records for digitization with plans to write brief descriptions about the letters and take multiple pictures for a free online research database.

Dr. Amanda Bevan, head of Legal Records at the National Archives of the U.K., has been involved with the Prize Papers since 2013. She told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast that reading the letters is like "eavesdropping on people from the past,” since people were writing to those they loved and missed back at home.

“It's touching, you feel as though you actually are in touch with the people who wrote them at the time,” she said.

Because many of the letters were sent during wartime, she said archivists are uncovering “heart-wrenching” stories.

“Especially the ones which say, ‘I’ve written three letters, I haven’t heard from you. Are you still alive?’” she said on “Start Here.”

One of the letters she mentioned was from a young Irishman who was writing to a cousin in Waterford about his adventures: "He's been settled on the island of Tenerife in the East Atlantic, and he's been trying to make his fortune, and everything has gone wrong."

And it’s not just paper in the mail.

“If you’re incredibly lucky, like I was, out will pop some gold rings, [and] a thin gold necklace,” Bevan said.

One letter from a slave trader to a girlfriend in Holland included a bracelet strung with glass beads, which were used as currency in African slave trade, from the coast of West Africa. It also had grains of sand from the Guinea coast that were used to blot ink.

“This is the sand that the person used to dry the ink and there it is spilling out on a bit of paper in London,” Bevan said.

Americans eager to learn about letters from the American Revolution will have to wait. The project is still in its early days and about a quarter of the estimated 160,000 total letters are unorganized from poor storage over the years. Bevan said the period between the 1770s and early 1780s has one of the worst collections of random papers.

“You get letters from the 1770s mixed up with letters from the 1780s. You’ll get French ones stored with Spanish ones … it’s clear that they’re messed up. Now we just need the time and resources to sort them out.”

Bevan believes the entire world could benefit from the information the Prize Papers provide “for the history of slavery, for the history of the development of the colonies, [and] for the history of consumerism."

“This is unmediated material, it’s from the heart,” she said. “And I think that’s really unusual because these kinds of letters, had they been delivered, probably wouldn’t survive any longer because they’re written by just ordinary people.”

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Newly discovered Rembrandt goes on view in Amsterdam

iStock/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM) -- A new painting by Rembrandt has been discovered by an art dealer and historian who bought the work from Christie's in London. It is the first unknown work by the Dutch master to turn up in 44 years.

Suspecting that the unsigned, undated work attributed to Rembrandt's apprentices was really done by the master himself, Jan Six, the man who bought the painting for $185,000, conducted historical research and technical investigations to prove his theory.

His claim is supported by 15 curators and art historians, including Ernst van de Wetering, widely acknowledged as the Rembrandt expert.

Painted around 1634, "Portrait of a Young Gentleman" goes on display today at The Hermitage in Amsterdam and will be on view to the public until June 15. Six plans to put it on sale following the exhibition.

The most recent Rembrandt found was sold for $4 million and the current record for the artist's work is $33.2 million.

“Real discoveries are very, very rare. A discovery like this is probably once in a lifetime,” Six told The Financial Times.

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Prince George, Princess Charlotte will be among the page boys and bridesmaids in Prince Harry, Meghan Markle's wedding

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will be surrounded by the young children of their closest friends and family when they get married this Saturday.

Harry's niece and nephew, Princess Charlotte and Prince George, are among the bridesmaids and page boys chosen by the couple, Kensington Palace announced today.

Markle will not have a maid of honor, choosing instead to have bridesmaids and page boys, all children, by her side at her wedding. She did not want to single out one of her friends, sources told "GMA."

Charlotte and George's father, Prince William, will serve as best man on May 19, just as Harry served as best man at William and Princess Kate's wedding in 2011.

Bridesmaids, the equivalent of flower girls in the United States, and page boys of grade-school age are part of the British royal wedding tradition.

Take a look at who will be by Harry and Markle's side when they wed in front of an expected 600 guests at St. George's Chapel on May 19.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte

Prince William and Princess Kate's children Prince George, who turns 5 in July, and Princess Charlotte, 3, are once again expected to steal the show.

George and Charlotte, who served as page boy and bridesmaid, respectively, at the wedding of their aunt, Pippa Middleton, last year, will be front and center on May 19.

Harry spoke to "GMA"'s Robin Roberts in 2016 about how he relishes his role as uncle.

"You've got to have fun in life. Otherwise, wow, imagine life without fun," Harry said. "You’ve got to be taken seriously, but I hope that I’m a fun uncle."

Charlotte, who has become accustomed to the cameras and the spotlight, melted hearts when she waved to onlookers while arriving to meet her new brother, Prince Louis, at St. Mary's Hospital last month.

Ivy Mulroney

Ivy Mulroney, 4, the young daughter of Markle's best friend, entrepreneur and style advisor Jessica Mulroney, will be a bridesmaid at the wedding.

Mulroney, who lives in Toronto, has been at Markle's side every step of the way in the buildup to Saturday, from secret wedding dress fittings at Kensington Palace to making sure every last wedding detail reflects the tastes and wishes of Harry and Markle.

Ivy, who is a star of her mom's Instagram account, has been practicing her role at home ahead of the wedding, "GMA" has learned.

Florence van Cutsem

Florence, 3, the goddaughter of Harry, will be a bridesmaid at his wedding to Markle.

Florence is the daughter of Alice van Cutsem and Major Nicholas van Cutsem.

She is also the first cousin of Grace van Cutsem, the young bridesmaid who famously stole the show at William and Kate's wedding when she covered her ears on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as they kissed. Grace's parents are Hugh van Cutsem and Rose Astor.

The van Cutsem children are among the closest friends of William and Harry and their late father was one of Prince Charles' oldest friends.

Zalie Warren

Zalie, 2, will be the youngest bridesmaid at Harry and Markle's wedding. She is also Harry's goddaughter and the daughter of Jake and Zoe Warren.

Jake Warren, the son of John Warren, Queen Elizabeth’s racing manager, and Lady Carolyn Warren, was one of Princess Diana’s godchildren.

Rylan and Remi Litt

Rylan, 7, and Remi, 6, are Markle's goddaughters who will serve as bridesmaids at the wedding.

The sisters are the daughters of one of Markle's close friends from Los Angeles, Benita Litt. Markle spent her first Christmas with the Litt family after news of her relationship with Harry became public in 2016.

Jasper Dyer

Jasper, 6, the son of Harry's mentor and close friend, Capt.Mark Dyer, will be a page boy at the wedding.

Jasper is Harry's godson. His father, Capt. Dyer, has been at Harry's side since shortly after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

A former Welsh Guards officer who is known to friends as Marko, Dyer has been involved in nearly every major decision in Harry's life. He helped organize Harry's trip to Botswana shorty after Diana’s death and was instrumental in the formation of Harry's charity, Sentebale. Dyer and his wife, Texas native Amanda Kline, were at Markle's side at a polo match Harry played in shortly after he and Markle made their public debut.

Brian and John Mulroney

Brian and John, 7-year-old twins, are the sons of Jessica and Ben Mulroney. They will join George and Jasper as page boys on Saturday.

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North Korea blames US-South Korea military drill for postponement of talks

Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- In a sudden turn, North Korea early today bombarded both the United States and South Korea with criticism linked to comments by President Donald Trump and ongoing military drills.

North Korea surprised Seoul with a message around midnight that it intends to postpone indefinitely high-level talks that were scheduled for today.

South Korea's Defense Ministry responded by saying the Max Thunder training would continue as scheduled, while the Unification Ministry said in a statement the North's message was "regrettable."

With its latest announcement, North Korea "has again shot itself in the foot, this time on the cusp of a historic meeting with the U.S. president which could have ended the Korean War and eased its diplomatic isolation,” senior research fellow Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation said today at a forum at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul.

"North Korea returned to acting like the belligerent regime of six months ago by canceling an inter-Korean meeting planned for today and threatening to suspend its summit with President Trump," Klinger added. "Pyongyang knew of the long-planned U.S.-South Korean military exercises that it cites as justification for its abrupt actions. Indeed, Kim Jong Un had dismissed the exercises as a concern during his meeting with a senior South Korean delegation in February.

"North Korea is back to its old game of trying to raise the stakes prior to a meeting. But Kim risks undermining the goodwill he had built up through his diplomatic outreach since January."

North Korea earlier threatened to pull out of a planned summit with the United States if Trump or officials demanded a "unilateral" abandonment of its nuclear arsenal, driving Kim Jong Un's nation "into a corner."

"The U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure," Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's first vice minister for foreign affairs and former nuclear-program negotiator, said.

Kim Kye Gwan accused "high-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State" of "provoking" them with "unbridled remarks."

He also took aim at John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser.

Bolton recently said the administration is considering a roadmap for North Korea similar to Libya.

"The implementation of the decision means getting rid of all the nuclear weapons, dismantling them, taking them to Oak Ridge, Tennessee," Bolton said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week." "It means getting rid of the uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities."

North Korea's statement was "very aggressive" -- too aggressive to be regarded as "just a symbolic gesture or just a hint to the U.S. saying you guys need to slow down," Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said.

“If this is a calculation by Kim Jong Un to gain leverage in the upcoming talks with President Trump," Terry said today at the leadership conference in Seoul. "I think he might be miscalculating pouring cold water."

Analysts who track North Korea said the nation was sensitive to the Libya comparison, especially after what happened to that country's deposed leadership.

Bolton has previously said it would be "perfectly legitimate" to carry out a preemptive strike on North Korea. His appointment in March raised concerns among those in favor of reconciliation.

The North Koreans also appear sensitive to recent comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about economic opportunities available to the North if they denuclearize, according to Jung H. Pak, the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"They are annoyed and irritated about the supposed carrot that we're throwing out there they didn’t even ask for," Pak said today at the leadership conference in Seoul. "It portrays them as a supplicant rather than equal negotiating partner that they want."

Still, this sudden turn by Pyongyang, especially after Kim Jong Un just stepped foot in South Korea, shows the North's frustration at U.S. posturing and the ongoing military drills.

The North had no choice but to put a stop to the inter-Korean high-level talks, blaming that South, which is "completely responsible" for "playing around in madness" when relations potentially had been heading toward peace, according to North Korean state news agency KCNA.

The South's Unification Ministry said in a statement, "It is regrettable that North unilaterally put off the inter-Korean high-level talks on the grounds of annual air-combat drills," adding that it would send a notice to the North today, perhaps to reschedule talks.

It was unclear exactly what message would be included.

Max Thunder is a two-week long annual joint military exercise featuring dozens of U.S. and South Korean aircraft. It was postponed from earlier this year because of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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North Korea threatens to withdraw from summit with Trump

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- North Korea is threatening to cancel its upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over South Korea-U.S.military drills.

North Korea has also canceled high-level talks with South Korea that were scheduled for Wednesday local time over those same drills.

"If the U.S. and the South Korean government thinks that the improvement of North-South relationship and the U.S. talk made possible by our leading and generous efforts and actions as a pardon to open play-with-fire fuss like this war drill anytime, there is no greater misjudgment than that," North Korean state media agency KCNA said in a dispatch.

"We have no choice but to stop the North-South high-level talk scheduled for the 16th under the ugly circumstances where there is indiscreet North-invading war fuss and fight rampage," KCNA said. "... The U.S. must contemplate on the fate of the scheduled Korea-U.S. head meeting with the provocative military situation created with the South Korean government.

"We will keep sharp eyes on the U.S. and the South Korean government's future attitude."

The summit between the American and North Korean leader was first announced in March and Trump tweeted the scheduled date -- June 12 -- and location -- Singapore -- last week.

Three Americans that were held in North Korea for more than a year each were released last week, in what was seen by many as a gesture of goodwill before the scheduled summit.

The U.S. has not heard from North Korea and is still planning for the summit to go ahead, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

"What we have to go on is what Kim Jong Un has said before, that he understands and appreciates the importance to the United States of having these joint exercises, the Republic of Korea has as well," Nauert said. "We've received no formal or even informal notification of anything."

As the U.S. has done on multiple previous occasions, Nauert defended the exercises as "legal," "planned well, well in advance" and "not provocative."

Col. Rob Manning, a Department of Defense spokesperson, said in a statement the exercises are "part of the ROK-U.S. Alliances’ routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness."

"The purpose of the training is to enhance the ROK-U.S. alliance’s ability to defend the ROK and enhance interoperability and readiness. While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed," Manning said.

Separately, a senior State Department official told reporters the U.S. and South Korea were in touch "a short while ago," but referred questions on that to South Korea. That official confirmed that there's been no contact from North Korea.

In a statement, the White House said: “We are aware of the South Korean media report. The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”

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Democratic and GOP senators warn Trump against lifting sanctions on Chinese company ZTE

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senators on both sides of the aisle are urging President Donald Trump not to go easy on Chinese telecom company ZTE after friendly tweets over the past few days suggested he’s willing to lift sanctions on the firm.

A group of 32 Senate Democrats urged Trump Tuesday to maintain a seven-year ban on ZTE’s purchase of American-made components critical to the company’s production – a penalty put in place after the company sold products to Iran and North Korea and then failed to penalize officials as it had told the U.S. it would.

“America’s national security must not be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations,” the senators wrote in a letter.

But in a series of tweets, Trump suggested exactly that: ZTE’s status with the U.S. is, in fact, part of larger economic talks. Several outlets reported Tuesday that the U.S. is discussing lifting the ZTE penalties to avoid agricultural sanctions China is preparing to impose on the U.S.

Two days ago Trump raised alarms by saying he was explicitly trying to help ZTE get back into business with the U.S.

Later Sunday, however, the White House walked back that directive to the Commerce Department, saying in a statement, “President Trump expects Secretary Ross to exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”

In addition to the 32 Senate Democrats who penned the letter, Republicans are also concerned that Trump is giving away too much.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has written a bill banning the U.S. government from contracting with ZTE or another China telecom, Huawei, used Trump’s preferred mode of communication to criticize Trump’s stated interest in easing penalties on ZTE.

In an interview with ABC, Wyden stressed that the link between the ZTE softening and the Trump Organization deal was only “possible.” Despite concern from both sides of the aisle about possible concessions to ZTE, the issue did not come up during Trump’s meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he does want to get more information from the White House about the potential arrangement.

“I'm concerned about that. I'm glad that China's helping us but allowing them to have sort of an entree in our technological world like this bothers me,” Graham said.

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Israeli troops kill 2 and injure hundreds, Palestinians say

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli troops killed two Palestinians and injured hundreds at the Gaza boundary fence on Tuesday as residents buried dozens of Palestinians who were shot and killed by Israeli forces a day earlier, Palestinian authorities said.

As the U.S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, Palestinians saw the deadliest day since the Gaza war in 2014. Israeli forces fired tear gas and live fire at Palestinian protesters, killing at least 60, including eight children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 2,700 Palestinians were injured, the ministry said.

Israel and the U.S. blamed Hamas, which rules Gaza, for the deaths, saying that Israel was defending its border.

“We started to line up altogether and then walk forward steps together. Then all I saw was smoke everywhere and people screaming,“ Wafa al-Udaini, a resident of Gaza who participated in Monday’s protests by the fence, told ABC News via text message.

Her cousin and her neighbor were killed by Israeli troops during the protest, she said.

She attended funerals Tuesday, and she says she plans to go back to the fence to demonstrate again on Wednesday.

Gaza was calmer on Tuesday, which for Palestinians marks what they refer to as "Nakba Day" -- marking what they call the "catastrophe" of their expulsion when Israel was created 70 years ago. Prayers were followed by parades of Palestinians carrying flag-wrapped bodies high above their heads, chanting on the way to the cemetery. Gunshots were fired in the air.

Near the boundary fence, 51-year-old Nasser Ghurab and 18-year-old Bilal Hussein were killed by Israeli forces, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Palestinians have been protesting for the past six weeks as part of the “March of Return,” a demonstration calling for the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to areas that are today part of Israel.

Palestinian and Turkish leaders called Monday’s killings a “massacre” while the U.K. and France urged Israel to show restraint. The U.N.’s secretary-general said he was “profoundly alarmed” by the number of Palestinians killed.

“I am profoundly alarmed and concerned by the sharp escalation of violence and the number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. "It is imperative that everyone shows the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life."

At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley denied that Monday’s deaths had anything to do with the U.S. decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem.

“Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the state of Israel in any location,” Haley said. “The location of the embassy has no bearing on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders... It does not undermine the prospects for peace in any way.”

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