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Humanitarian Crisis Looms in Aleppo; Race for the White House 2016; Investigators Await Prince's Toxicology Report; Austria Passes Stringent New Asylum Laws; North Korea Tests Two Missiles; Wildlife Rescue Group Flies Lions to South Africa. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 28, 2016 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK: dire warnings of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Strong reactions to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech.

And more details on the drugs Prince had with him when he died.


CURNOW: Hello and welcome. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.

The U.N. is calling conditions in the Syrian city of Aleppo "catastrophic" as fighting escalates between rebel and government forces.

One of the last pediatricians in the city is among three doctors killed in an airstrike overnight and the violence continues as we speak. Take a look

at these scenes.


CURNOW (voice-over): Aid delivery to millions of civilians is now in jeopardy and all signs point to utter failure for Syria's two-month-old



CURNOW: At least 27 people were killed in that airstrike in those devastating images you saw on a hospital in Aleppo. Our Nic Robertson

joins us now with the latest.

Hi, there, Nic.

Firstly, what more do we know about one of the last pediatricians who was killed in this airstrike, as well as other civilians?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, MSF, Medecins sans Frontieres, Doctors without Borders, and the International

Committee of the Red Cross, the ICRC, both supported this hospital.

The ICRC is saying that now, because of the deaths and destruction of this hospital, that millions are in grave danger, that they are not going

to have adequate treatment.

MSF, Doctors without Borders, has just released the press statement; they say there are 250,000 people left living in the city of Aleppo. All

of those on the opposition side are going to be without access to this particular physician; a pediatrician, we know that children were killed in

this attack, two, at least three of them died, we're told.

The statistics here are frighteningly scary. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which catalogs deaths on both sides, says in the last six

days in Aleppo, 148 civilians have been killed, 99 on the opposition side, 49 on the government side.

The U.N. special envoy in Geneva, who's trying to negotiate peace talks while there's supposed to be the cease-fire going on on the ground,

says that in the past 48 hours, one Syrian has died every 25 minutes. One Syrian has been wounded every 13 minutes.

By any measure, the cessation of hostilities that came into place about a month and a half ago is really running out of road in Aleppo; in

particular as in escalation. What we're hearing now from the man in charge of the U.N. part of the humanitarian effort to deliver aid in Syria, he

says this is at a crisis point.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could not in any way express how high the stakes are for the next hours and days. The stakes are so incredibly high because

so many civilian lives are at stake, so many humanitarian health workers and relief workers are being bombed, killed, maimed at the moment, that the

whole lifeline to millions of people is now also at stake.


ROBERTSON: So the other part of the picture for Syria right now, the destruction of the hospital, the escalation on the military front, the

deteriorating humanitarian situation, the peace talks now have gone through two sets of 10-, 12-day rounds of talks, have really led nowhere.

In fact, they've led to the point now where the U.N. special representative, Staffan de Mistura, is calling on the United States and

Russia to step in again and try and get the cease-fire going because, without that, the talks in Geneva, the peace talks just won't happen --


CURNOW: OK. Either way the humanitarian, the human cost, just devastating. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for putting it into


Well, as Nic was saying, the International Red Cross says the fighting in Aleppo and elsewhere is putting aid deliveries at risk and threatening a

full-blown humanitarian crisis. Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krzysiek (ph) joins us now from the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Warnings of a catastrophe in Aleppo; it's dire.

What are your main concerns?


PAWEL KRZYSIEK (PH), RED CROSS SPOKESMAN: Well, there remain concerns here that if the fighting continues to escalate, then for so far for over a

week, we've been really seeing a sharp increase in the fighting, shelling, airstrikes, combat, mortars.

Then it will become more and more difficult to deliver aid to support hospitals, such as the Quds hospital, for instance, to basically replenish

the stocks, the contingency stock that we've been preparing for exactly such escalation of fighting.

And when the last delivery took place three weeks ago, we can assume that those stocks are about to get empty.


Why has fighting surged in recent times?

And is it this also because Aleppo province is a very strategic location, crisscrossed with supply routes, as you say, for all the warring

parties here?

Is that part of the problem?

KRZYSIEK (PH): Well, Aleppo certainly is a strategic province. It's not up to the Red Cross really to talk about, you know, how strategic

military this place is.

What I can tell you it's the second largest city in Syria; 2 million people lives in the city. Many of them have been displaced for more than

two times. There have been those displaced live in the proximity of the front lines.

It's not the surge of the fighting happens a week ago or what I said is that a week ago, we've seen a sharp increase in the intensity of the

fighting. However, Aleppo has seen the fighting escalating, gradually escalating, fighting for a couple of months.

This is one of the places that has not really seen any cease-fire, regardless the declaration. So you can imagine that the humanitarian

situation that has already been very, very dire in the place that has not seen any electricity for over four years becomes worse and worse.

CURNOW: So what now needs to be done?

KRZYSIEK (PH): Well, I think first of all, we have to depart from the call to those responsible for the fighting to really spare the civilians,

to stop attacking the medical facilities, to stop attacking the doctors, to not to use the weapons that cause widespread damage, suffering and, you

know, casualties.

But what can be done in order to resolve the Syrian crisis and in particular the crisis in Aleppo, I don't really know. What I can tell you

is that the humanitarian aid will not really solve this problem. It can really help people to survive in the shorter term but, in the longer term,

the political solution is needed to this crisis.

CURNOW: A political solution that has eluded everyone so far over these past five years. Thank you so much, Pawel Krzysiek (ph) from the Red

Cross. Appreciate it.


CURNOW: It was a day of different messages to different crowds for Donald Trump. The Republican presidential front-runner blasted rival Ted

Cruz's running mate announcement hours after he gave a formal speech on foreign policy. Phil Mattingly has more on headline-grabbing moves from

the Republican rivals.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tale of two Donald Trumps.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're just about ready to put it away, folks.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Fresh off a resounding five-state victory...

TRUMP: Now we're down to two stragglers, let's be nice, two stragglers.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): -- mocking Ted Cruz's last-ditch effort to blunt his march forward by announcing his running mate, Carly Fiorina.

TRUMP: Cruz can't win.

What's he doing picking vice presidents?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And ridiculing his alliance with Republican rival, John Kasich.

TRUMP: This little marriage of the two of them, boy, did that backfire, right. I call them the colluders, right, the colluders. I love

talking about it because what stupid decisions.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A far cry from the serious, scripted GOP front-runner on display during a foreign policy speech just a few hours


TRUMP: America first will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Reading from a teleprompter, Trump offered few specifics, instead repeating campaign pledges on ISIS and NATO,

threatening to up-end decades'-old alliances.

TRUMP: The U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And forge new ones with countries traditionally seen as threats.

TRUMP: Some say the Russians won't be reasonable. I intend to find out.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The speech prompting former rival, Lindsey Graham, to declare, "Ronald Reagan must be rolling over --


MATTINGLY (voice-over): -- "in his grave."

Could Cruz's gamble with Fiorina deliver a win in Indiana?

Many political insiders say it's do or die for him.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Some might ask why now. It is unusual to make the announcement as early as we're doing so now. Well, I think all

would acknowledge this race, if anything, it is unusual.


CURNOW: It certainly is, isn't it. Phil Mattingly reporting there.

You just saw Ted Cruz announcing Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Fiorina, if you remember, criticized Cruz when they were presidential

rivals. Now she's singing a different tune -- literally. Look at this.


CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know two girls that I just adore. I'm so happy I can see them more. Because we travel on

the bus all day, we get to play, we get to play.

I won't bore you with anymore of the song.


CURNOW: Fiorina says she sang that song for Ted Cruz's daughters. She got a little more serious this morning, though, on CNN's "NEW DAY,"

saying why she had joined forces with Cruz to try and win the Republican nomination.


FIORINA: On the one hand you have Cruz and Fiorina and on the other hand you have Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And I put them in the same

category because they are the same category. They're two sides of the same coin.

And I think this is a fight for the soul of our party and the future of our nation. I'm not afraid of tough fights. I've been in them most of

my life.

But I do think for some of us principles matter and convictions matter and policies and principles matter.


CURNOW: All of this happening ahead of next week's primary in Indiana, which could be the last stand for Cruz after Trump's big wins on


But I want to bring in Russ Schriefer. He's a Republican political strategist at Strategic Partners and Media in Washington.

Hi, there.

I'm going to get to Carly Fiorina in just a moment. But I just want to get your perspective on Donald Trump's foreign policy speech. The

critics have been scathing, saying Mr. Trump really has no idea how the world works. But really, foreign policy experts world leaders, were not

his audience, were they.

How do you think that went down with primary voters?

RUSS SCHRIEFER, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, I think it went down fairly well with some primary voters. I think that there's a lot

of people who are tired of American intervention in foreign walls. They want to withdraw. They want to kind of come back and do, as he says, put

America first.

That ignores our relationships with NATO; it ignores our policies over the last 30 to 40 years. And I think, when you hear someone like Vladimir

Putin speaking up the speech, what you're seeing is him saying, this is great. We're going to have an American president who's going to withdraw

from the world stage, so I can then move forward and do more in the world stage.

And I'm just not sure if that's great for America at the end.

CURNOW: But is that what voters want to hear?

SCHRIEFER: I think that some voters want to hear that. But I think when the voters realize what this means in terms of America pulling back,

America not being the leader in the world, America not taking the first step in helping find peaceful solutions and world conflict and how that

ultimately impacts upon our shores and our policies and on our lives.

CURNOW: The use of the term "America first" seems simple on first listening.

But historically, it's got rather dubious links, hasn't it?

SCHRIEFER: Yes. This is something that was -- goes back to World War II. It was a group of people -- I think it was led by Charles Lindbergh,

who wanted to withdraw from -- keep America out of World War II, something that, you know, we know now would have been a disaster.

We were facing fascism in the face. Without America's help, who knows what the world would look like today?

So I think this is -- it's a little dangerous. But, then again, Donald Trump has always sort of played right up to the line on these

things. And then what he does, his tendency, is then to pull back and then say, well, I really didn't mean it that way. What I meant was...

We've got to take care of our own, we've got take care of America. But, of course, I'm going to intervene and, of course, I'm going to do

these things over in Europe particularly.

CURNOW: OK. So you say that is dangerous words.

Let's talk about Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. "The New York Times" is calling this a daring but desperate move.

SCHRIEFER: Well, you know, there's an old saying that says, if you don't like the conversation, change it. And I think that what Ted Cruz was

clearly doing was trying to change the conversation.

He was terrible on Tuesday night. He came in, I think --


SCHRIEFER: -- third in most of the states that were up.

His march to Cleveland and trying to stop Donald Trump and to try to win on a second or third ballot is falling apart.

So what do you do?

You have to change the conversation. And the easiest thing to do is to name a running mate.

Saying that, I think that what we're talking about this morning is Carly Fiorina and whether or not this was a smart move, not how abysmal his

performance was on Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware.

CURNOW: Yes. Many people asking, is this a political stunt. But really is it staving off the inevitable?

Russ, thanks so much for your perspective. Appreciate it.

SCHRIEFER: You're welcome.

CURNOW: You're watching CNN. This is the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

Still to come, the powerful prescription pain medication Prince had with him when he was found dead. We're live with the latest in that

investigation. That's next. Stay with us.




CURNOW: There's new information this morning regarding the death of Prince. A law enforcement official confirms to CNN that the music icon had

prescription pain medication on him when he was found dead last week. CNN's Stephanie Elam joins us now from outside Prince's Paisley Park home

and studio.

Hi, there, Steph.

What more do we know?


Yes, what we are learning is that investigators say that they found these drugs, these opioids, these powerful painkillers, not just on

Prince's person but also in his Paisley Park estate, which you see behind me here, after they were going through his home and looking for any

indication of what could have caused the untimely death of the 57-year old.

We're also learning from investigators that they do believe, if you remember, about a week before Prince died, that he was traveling back from

concerts in Atlanta, the plane had to make an emergency landing in Illinois so that he could be treated.

We understand that investigators believe that he was having some sort of reaction to these painkillers and that they treated him for an overdose.

That's what we are understanding. That's what we're learning at this point.

You had to remember, he continued on with that flight a few hours later, came home. People said that he seemed normal, was out in the world,

riding his bike.

But at the same time, with this information and the fact that these painkillers were on him, investigators want to find out who was prescribing

this medicine to Prince, where he was getting these drugs and if, perhaps, he was overprescribed -- Robyn.

CURNOW: All very important questions. Stephanie Elam there, outside Prince's estate. Thanks so much.

To perhaps try and help us answer those questions, I want to bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He joins us live from

Rome, where he's on assignment.

Hi, there, Sanjay.

So Prince was found with pain medication, with opiates.

How dangerous, how could these --


CURNOW: -- kinds of drugs contribute to his death?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, a lot of people do take these medications for all sorts of legitimate pain

concerns. We know that he was using a cane, had some problems with his hip, so there are some very legitimate uses.

The concern I think which you're referring to is people that people can also potentially overdose in these. They can take too much of these

medications. They could be combined with something else and that could be a problem.

We don't know that any of that has occurred. Again, people -- you may have a prescription from a doctor for his pain problems. But I can tell

you from a medical examiner standpoint, this is going to be another piece of important data.

They already probably are planning on testing for things like this when they test his blood and his urine and everything. But this is going

to be another area they may drill down on, given the circumstances, given the fact that they found these.

CURNOW: Indeed. Let's talk about the toxicology report, the autopsy. We know that it could take weeks until there's any sort of results.

As a doctor yourself, that is exactly the kind of clues perhaps that examiners will be looking for?

GUPTA: Yes. It's a very important clue. I mean you've heard, Robyn, obviously they've done an autopsy, they were looking for any other obvious

cause of death. They're going to look at all the circumstances of his past medical history.

And certainly what he has been experiencing over the last few weeks and then this toxicology.

They look at the bodily fluids to try and determine what was present, what was present, how much was present; you can even get an idea of how

long some of these things have been present, how long has somebody been using certain medications, for example.

So -- and then after that, you put all these pieces together. No single piece of that puzzle is probably going to provide an answer here.

If it was going to, they would have probably already had that answer.

But after they combine all this together, then they will make sort of a conclusion on all this and it may not just be one thing in the end. It

may be a few different things that contributed to this.

CURNOW: Let's just talk about opioids and painkillers. It's become an epidemic in many ways in parts of the United States, real concerns about

overprescribing by doctors.

I mean it's even been part of the -- this political campaign for the nomination for the president. This has become a serious issue within

American society, hasn't it?

GUPTA: If you get any group of doctors in the United States, many countries around the world, but the United States in particular, this issue

will come up, in part, because the United States consumes 80 percent of the world's opiates, 80 percent of the world's pain pills.

It's a remarkable number. You can have overdose deaths as a result of them.

In fact, if you do the math, a person dies every 19 minutes from an accidental opiate overdose. It's a huge problem. It's one of the number

one causes of preventable death in the United States today.

And, you know, Robyn, to your point again, we hear about it usually in the wake of somebody who may have overdosed, a famous person, a celebrity.

But every 19 minutes, I mean, it's remarkable how many people are dying in this manner.

So there's been a huge push from the medical community, from the political community, to try to do something about it.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much, Sanjay Gupta there, reporting for us. Appreciate it.

Well, turning now to a growing climate of fear in Europe over the refugee crisis. Austrian lawmakers have passed strict new laws to help the

country cope with the influx of migrants. CNN's Atika Shubert joins me live from Berlin to tell us more about this growing climate of fear.

Hi, there, Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I mean what's being -- what we're seeing in Austria really is reflected in many

countries but Austria's taken the most stringent laws so far.

And basically this new law says that if refugees come to the border in this so-called state of emergency, Austria says it can turn refugees and

asylum seekers away without assessing their asylum claims.

Now there are some that argue this is against international law, this is likely to be challenged. But Austria maintains, because it's so

overwhelmed by refugees from the recent refugee crisis, it has to take these exceptional measures.

Now this is a law that is passed but it isn't really in effect yet and it's not likely really to be implemented for a few months now. But it

comes after a wave of a number of other issues in Austria, including the building or the proposed building of a border fence, but on its border with


In fact, over the weekend, hundreds of protesters clashed with police against this border fence. But, essentially, Austria saying they need a

fence there in the event that it's overwhelmed with refugees coming in from Italy.

Now Italy's prime minister even has protested this, saying there's no need for it because the number of refugees coming across has dramatically

dropped in the last few months -- Robyn.

CURNOW: And that's -- you are referencing these images from Austria. You're in Germany. This anger, this climate of fear, is not isolated. I

mean, across Europe there has been this kind -- these kinds of concerns.


CURNOW: And in particular, one case in response to the rape of a boy at a public swimming pool. Tell us about that.

SHUBERT: Yes. This is a horrific case. It actually happened late last year but it wasn't made public because of privacy for the victim. But

essentially, a very young boy, 10-year-old boy, was raped in a public swimming pool facility in Austria.

The man who said he was guilty and said that he did it was an Iraqi migrant who was claiming asylum. Now he has pleaded guilty. His

sentencing, however, has been suspended because they're still assessing the psychological state of the victim.

It is a horrible crime, it's the worst nightmare for any parent. And as you can imagine a very emotional issue for many Austrians. And it's not

just Austria who's concerned. We know several incidents of assault in public swimming pools here in Germany.

And of course there was that massive assault, sexual assault in Cologne, in New Year's Eve. So these kinds of incidents have fueled the

kind of fear and anger that has caused politicians to take these very dramatic decisions against refugee policy.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much. Atika Shubert there, reporting for us, appreciate it.

Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, is fighting for her political life. She faces the possibility of impeachment and could be suspended from

running her government as early as next month.

Ms. Rousseff sat down exclusively with our Christiane Amanpour to talk about her fight and the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio. Take a listen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Brazil, under your administration, has secured the Olympic Games. You're getting ready for the Olympic Games.

How will it make you feel if you're not able to host them, if you're sitting out the impeachment process for the next six months?

DILMA ROUSSEFF, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): You know, there's one thing I wish to tell you. I, if that happens, I will be very

sad, indeed, because we have, I think it is fair to say, we have undertaken a very good effort.

I would very much like to take part in the Olympic process because I helped build the effort from day one, ever since we accepted the

responsibility matrix, as we call it.

I was there, attending the sessions ahead of the -- or chief of staff at the time. But I'm actually sad, a little more sad, for another reason,

because I think the worst thing for any human being is to be the victim of injustice.

And I am being the victim of the current impeachment process.


CURNOW: And you can see more of CNN's exclusive interview coming up later on "AMANPOUR." Much more news after the break.





CURNOW: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW: And North Korea launched two more mid-range missiles. But it's believed both have failed, according to South Korea's defense

ministry. Let's get more on this from our Will Ripley, reporting from Tokyo.

Will, you have been to North Korea a number of times this year. Tell us about these two attempts.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to tell you, Robyn, it is really extraordinary to see the pace at which North Korea continues to

conduct these missile tests.

The fact that in -- now in one day, on Thursday, there was an attempted mid-range missile launch in the morning and then another

attempted mid-range missile launch in the evening within the last few hours from the same naval base on the eastern side of the Korean Peninsula,

extraordinary and, frankly, quite troubling because it shows the urgency with which North Korea is attempting to test this technology and probably

also attempting to send a very strong message domestically to the North Korean people of yet another military success ahead of this major political

event that's happening in just about a week, the Workers Party Congress next Friday.

And even though both of these tests failed it is very important to keep in mind that North Korean scientists learn a considerable amount of

information from a failed missile test.

They learn how the motors worked, how the electrical systems worked, the payload, how heavy the missile may or may not be able to handle,

because North Korea claims it has miniaturized nuclear warheads that they could potentially place in these mid-range missiles.

They could test the launch platforms. We believe these particular missiles may have been launched from a mobile launch platform. But they

also -- they've been looking missile silos.

There was also, over the weekend on Saturday, that successful missile launch from a submarine, which would allow North Korea to float right up to

enemy shores and launch a missile that could potentially strike the United States or U.S. military bases in this region.

And this mid-range missile, the Musudan missile that we believe they have now tested twice today, if they can get this thing to work correctly,

it could have a range of up to 3,500 kilometers, that's 2,100 miles, putting within striking distance U.S. military bases in Okinawa, a very key

strategic naval base for the United States in Guam and, of course, here in Japan, multiple targets, targets around the Asia Pacific region and, of

course, South Korea which has always been in striking distance, now perhaps in greater risk than ever, not to mention, Robyn, that each weapon that

North Korea develops and each successful test is also essentially an advertisement to other rogue nations around the world that might be looking

to purchase this technology.

And given that North Korea is under some of the most intense sanctions it has ever faced, they are certainly looking for a way to generate revenue

and project strength.

And it's just to see this pace, certainly, officials in the United States and South Korea not only taking notice here but trying to really

figure out what they can do to try to stop this.

CURNOW: Yes. So many questions I have to ask you.

So the flurry of launches, perhaps sending a domestic political message; also, as you suggest, perhaps an advertisement, a commercial


Also, though, what's deeply concerning about these delivery systems, the fact that even though they're failing, trial and error, as you say,

could be an advancement in some ways.

What about still the possibility I see that South Korea says the North is potentially also ready to conduct another nuclear test at some point?

RIPLEY: Well, that is what the South Korean government has been saying for several days now. You'll remember, earlier this week, they

anticipated another missile launch. I don't think anybody expected --


RIPLEY: -- that there would be two in one day. But they said it was very likely that one of these mid-range Musudan missiles would be launched

ahead of next week's Workers Party Congress, just one week from tomorrow.

They also, though, are saying that they believe, based on satellite imagery and other intelligence, that North Korea could very likely be

preparing for a fifth nuclear test because, you'll remember, that nuclear test in January of this year, I was in the country just a couple of days

after that purported H-bomb test, which North Korea proudly celebrated, that test happened just a couple of days before the supreme leader, Kim

Jong-un's birthday.

And given the fact now that there have been two missile attempts that have failed in one day, clearly, the North Korean government is looking for

a victory here, which perhaps only increases the likelihood of this nuclear test being conducted as soon as possible.

And as we've seen in the past, these nuclear tests, extremely dangerous in the fact that not only do they provide North Korea with more

useful information about their nuclear program; they have the potential to shake up global markets at a time that there's already a lot of things

going on around the world, questions about the economy in multiple different places. And just any regional instability just continues to add

to that.

All of this is happening with some of the strongest sanctions in place ever, sanctions that even China, which in the past has resisted such

measures by the U.S. and the U.N., is now saying that they will enforce.

And what this shows is that the influence that Beijing has long had over Pyongyang, apparently those old rules no longer apply under the new

young supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, who is determined to make his mark militarily through these repeated provocations.

CURNOW: Let's talk about China and the leverage it might or might not have over this young leader.

Mike Chinoy, one of our former correspondents and an Asia analyst, has said that China would probably prefer, if they had to choose, a nuclear

North Korea over an unstable North Korea.

Is that playing into all of this?

RIPLEY: Well, China, of course, has made it clear -- and they've publicly state that keeping the Korean Peninsula stable is their top

priority. Strategically they allow the North Korean economy to continue and, in fact, all of the limited economic growth in North Korea is seen as

a direct result of the trade relationship that North Korea has with China.

China allows this because, if the North Korean government were to collapse, one, they'd see a flood of refugees coming across their borders.

It would create a humanitarian crisis. China certainly doesn't want to deal with that.

But also, strategically, the United States has a very strong military alliance with South Korea. More than 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in

South Korea. The U.S. and South Korea are just now wrapping up eight weeks of military exercises.

China doesn't want to see the Korean Peninsula under the full control of an alliance with the United States. So that's why they have allowed to

keep North Korea going and that has given them a considerable amount of influence up until now -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Keep an eye on all of this. Thank you so much, Will Ripley, your perspective there from Tokyo. Appreciate it.

I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. More news after the break.





CURNOW: A story now with a happy ending: dozens of former circus lions are getting a chance at a better life in retirement. A wildlife

rescue group is preparing to fly them back to South Africa after decades in often deplorable conditions in South America. CNN's Rafael Romo joins us

now live.

Tell us about this journey and this group of lions.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, it's an incredible story that caught my attention this morning. It's a total of 33 lions that

are being shipped back to Africa by Animal Defenders International and Animal Rescue and Protection Organization.

Twenty-four of these animals were rescued from circuses in Peru and the rest in Colombia. Both South American countries have banned the use of

wild animals in circuses.

The president of Animal Defenders International says the transfer of the lions is a statement about conservation.


JAN CREAMER (PH), PRESIDENT, ANIMAL DEFENDER INTERNATIONAL: This is a hugely important rescue mission because it does make a statement around the

world about the way people treat animals and about our relationship with the other species who share our planet.

This is their planet, too. They have the right to live here. And the way they're treated by humans is incredibly bad. And we need to change the

way we treat other animals.

So it's important for that reason; it's a statement about the importance of showing respect and compassion to other species but, also, it

shows people that we can make a change.


ROMO: And the lions will be flown to South Africa. An MD-11F cargo airplane will pick up the nine lions in Bogota, Colombia, then fly to Lima,

the Peruvian capital, to pick up the other 24 lions before the final leg of the trip to Johannesburg, their final destination, the Emoya Big Cat

Sanctuary in South Africa.

Just an incredible trip.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean that is a trip and a fantastic welcome home for these big cats. I know they will be looked after really well in my


Tell me something, what condition, though, were they found in?

ROMO: They say really bad. The word they used is "deplorable," they were not properly fed. Some of these lions were older lions. So some of

them were sick. So they badly needed to be rescued and taken back to Africa.

And again, it's 33 lions. It's a lot of lions. You see the images there. Some are playful. But that's not the case for every single lion in

the group.

CURNOW: OK. Rafael Romo, thanks so much.

ROMO: Thank you.

CURNOW: Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. I'll be back in just over an hour. "WORLD SPORT" is