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  • Woohae Cho/Getty Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) -- Defense drones, military officers and hundreds of surveillance cameras will be in place as the Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea this week amid omnipresent nuclear tensions with North Korea. But organizers are also working to keep the atmosphere fun.“They want people to enjoy the games. They don’t want it to look like it’s a military camp or a police camp,” Mike Evanoff, U.S. assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, told ABC News ahead of the games, where more than 240 American athletes will compete. The U.S. Department of State works closely with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the host country.His bureau has coordinated security between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the host country at every Olympics since the Summer Games in Montreal in 1976, according to official reports.“So they’re here and they’re ready. But, at the same time, we want everybody to feel comfortable,” Evanoff added, referring to the blanket of military and police personnel scheduled to keep watch.An estimated 60,000 South Korean personnel, including 50,000 soldiers, will be deployed throughout the Olympic venues, nearly twice as many as there were on hand at the 2016 games in Rio, Brazil, authorities said.In addition, there will be more than 800 security cameras in place as well as K-9 units, special forces and anti-kidnapping squads available to ensure public safety, according to authorities.“We need it. That’s the way it is right now,” Evanoff said when asked about the presence of attack drones. He said that, for every major event, there’s going to be an "eye in the sky.”The drones, which security officials said will be capable of snatching possible bomb-carrying enemy drones out of the air, have been used for major U.S. events, including past Super Bowls, according to Evanoff.“For the Koreans, this is a big event for them for using drones,” Evanoff said.Officials from the CIA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will also be working in conjunction with South Korea amid anxiety over possible provocations from North Korea.Members of the South Korean military held anti-terrorism drills in Pyeongchang in preparation for different threat scenarios last month.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite previous signs of an openness from the U.S., North Korea on Thursday said they do not have any interest in meeting members of the American delegation during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang beginning this week.Vice President Mike Pence, who landed in South Korea overnight Thursday (U.S. time), is leading the U.S. delegation and had expressed some willingness to meet with North Korean officials should the opportunity arise."I haven’t requested any meetings, but we’ll see what happens,” he said Tuesday.The opportunity was shot down by North Korean officials on Thursday."We have never begged for dialogue with the U.S. and will be the same in the future," said Cho Yong-sam, director-general of the North American department of North Korea's foreign ministry, according to Korean news outlet Yonhap and translated by ABC News. "We clearly state that we have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during our visit to South Korea."Upon his arrival in South Korea on Thursday, Pence met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and briefly gave remarks to the press. He did not address a meeting with North Korean officials, but did reiterate the U.S.'s support for the "shared objective of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.""Allow me to assure you and the people of South Korea that the U.S. will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in maximum pressure until North Korea finally and permanently and irreversibly abandons nuclear and ballistic ambitions," Pence said Thursday.Defense Secretary James Mattis, in a press conference Wednesday, told reporters, "Vice President Pence is quite capable of making the call on that there, while he’s in Korea," when asked about a potential meeting.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not be present at the games, which began on Wednesday -- though the opening ceremony will be held Friday. Pence is expected to be in attendance.Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader's younger sister and a close confidante, will be the highest-ranking diplomat attending the games on behalf of North Korea.Pence took a harder stance on Wednesday when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He announced in a joint statement the U.S. would soon announce "the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever."The stance on North Korea of President Donald Trump, whose war of words with Kim Jong Un has quieted lately, has not changed, White Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said most recently in December.Trump has not tweeted about North Korea or Kim Jong Un since Jan. 14, when he took issue with a Wall Street Journal report that quoted the president as saying he has a good relationship with Kim. Trump said the actual quote was that he could have a good relationship with the leader, not that he does.Twelve days earlier, the president took to Twitter to make the infamous claim that he too has "a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"Cho addressed Trump's predilection for bombastic speech in declining any chance to meet with Pence or the U.S. delegation while in South Korea."U.S. had better realize that their reckless words and actions only show their embarrassing position, and behave appropriately," Cho said. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Unioncom/VCG/Getty Images(HUALIEN, Taiwan) -- As the run rose over Taiwan's coastal city of Hualien on Thursday, at least 62 people were still missing or unaccounted for after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the region late Tuesday night, toppling buildings and killing nine people.Another 260 people have been injured and about 31,000 households were without water Wednesday as strong aftershocks continued to rattle the city, according to the Taiwan National Disaster Response Center.Search and rescue teams have been working around the clock at the site of four collapsed buildings since the earthquake struck Hualien at about 11:50 p.m. local time Tuesday night.Heavy afternoon rain hampered rescue efforts at the once-12-story Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which has been tilting at a precarious angle in danger of utter collapse, Taiwanese newspaper Apple Daily reported. Parts of the first four floors buckled during the quake, resulting in the tilt.At one point, the Yun Men Tsui Ti building was tilting an additional 2 inches each hour, according to Apple Daily. At least 53 people were still reported missing inside as of Wednesday, including 13 at a bed-and-breakfast called the Beauty Inn located on the lower floors of the commercial and residential building.Meanwhile, first responders attempted to free two employees trapped in the lobby of the city's Marshal Hotel. The first two floors of the 41-year-old building crumpled during the earthquake, Taiwanese officials said.Ultimately, they were able to rescue one hotel employee and recovered the body of the second. A total of 130 people were rescued from the Marshal Hotel early Wednesday morning in the hours after the quake, officials said.The epicenter of the quake was about 5.9 miles deep and located off the coast of Taiwan, roughly 13 miles from Hualien, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.After visiting the disaster scene in Hualien on Wednesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took to Twitter to thank the first responders.Taiwan is situated along the "Ring of Fire," the world's most seismically active region, making the small island nation no stranger to quakes. But since Sunday, clusters of strong earthquakes have continuously shaken the city of Hualien, until the strongest one hit Tuesday night.Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau warned Hualien residents to expect potentially strong aftershocks for the next two weeks. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images(PARIS) -- For the third consecutive day, tourists in the French capital can't visit the famed Eiffel Tower, which has been closed since Tuesday as heavy snowfall blanketed the region."Because of the snowfall, cold temperatures and icy conditions, the Eiffel Tower remains closed this morning," a spokesperson for the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, which runs the Paris landmark, told ABC News. "We hope to reopen this afternoon."The Eiffel Tower closes from time to time because of strong wind gusts, but it's rarely shut down for three days in a row. During last month's flooding in Paris, the monument remained opened.Snow swept across the region on Tuesday night, disrupting railway systems and creating traffic jams. Hundreds of people were forced to abandon their cars and sleep in emergency shelters, according to Paris police.About 5 inches of snow fell in Paris and its suburbs on Tuesday, according to Meteo France, the nation's official weather service. More snow is expected on Friday.Authorities said the situation for commuters has improved on railways and on the roads, but conditions are likely to remain dangerous Thursday because of cold temperatures turning the snow into ice.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- Hopes for peace on the Korean Peninsula may have gotten another boost on Wednesday as North Korea announced that leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, will visit South Korea on Friday to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.Kim Yo Jong, believed to be 31 years old, is often seen alongside her older brother at state events, hinting at a close proximity and influence on the nation’s leader.She will be the first member of the ruling North Korean Kim family to visit the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953.But Pyongyang on Thursday -- a day before the Olympics' opening ceremony -- plans to charge ahead with a massive military parade featuring thousands of goose-stepping soldiers and various types of missiles, tanks and other military weapons. North Korea is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).Kim Yo Jong is part of a 23-member high-level delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state. He holds the title of president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, which is, in essence, a rubber-stamp legislature.The delegation also includes Choi Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, handling inter-Korean affairs as the chairman of the Central Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, according the South Korea’s Unification Ministry.It is unclear whether Kim Yo Jong will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in or how long she will stay in the South, but the president’s office made it clear that this is a sign of the North easing tensions in the Korean Peninsula."First Vice Director Kim Yo Jong is Chairman Kim Jong Un's sister, who has an important role in the Workers' Party," presidential spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom said in a statement read on television. Kyeom added that her role makes the visit "that much more meaningful." Kim Yo Jong first appeared in public escorting her brother in 2014 and later held an official post in charge of national propaganda. Kim then quickly rose to power, marking her seat in the Workers’ Party’s central committee in 2016. She was promoted last October to first vice-director of the powerful Organization and Guidance Department.She is now in charge of state security, overlooking senior officials in the party and military.
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