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Two Crises Test Trump White House; North Korea Launches Missile, U.S. Gives Muted Response; Brexit 1.0

Aired April 5, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:15] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, has President Trump now laid down his own red line after the chemical attack in Syria?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies,

little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a

red line. Many, many lines.


AMANPOUR: Also coming up, anger from the senior U.N. Syria adviser Jan Egeland.


JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: To use chemical weapons is a war crime. To use it against women and children is double war



AMANPOUR: And as North Korea launches yet another ballistic missile test, does the new Trump administration have the bandwidth to respond to these

two major crises? We ask a leading expert about the policy of weapons of mass destruction.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Two crises in two different corners of the world highlight the international community's struggle to deter unacceptable behavior. On the

same day North Korea launched another ballistic missile test on its relentless march towards deliverable nuclear weapons, shortly after Syria

was accused of launching a chemical weapons attack on civilians. And at the White House today, President Trump addressed the crisis with the

visiting king of Jordan. There he announced his attitude to President Assad has now changed very much.


TRUMP: These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this

horrific attack and all other horrific attacks for that matter.


AMANPOUR: Meanwhile, at an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, the American ambassador, Nikki Haley, set down her own marker.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times

in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.


AMANPOUR: So does all of this spell any change of policy? We're joined now by our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth.

Richard, you are there. You've been listening to the U.N. debate. You heard what Ambassador Haley said and you've obviously just heard what the

president said.

How is this being dissected in the halls of the U.N.? Is there a new policy afoot?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: People are assessing it. It's a little early for people to analyze either way. It does have a lot

of shades, as you well know, of pre-Iraq times with words like serious consequences, war resolution, and further action, and suddenly you had a


Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has certainly talked tough. She herself has said she's been blunt. She calls herself a transparency

girl. So they're very used here at the U.N. -- the diplomats are used to rhetoric, words. Now is it going to lead to any type of threat of military

action? Sure, it seemed like that.

Haley stood up behind the presidency chair of the Security Council. She's the president man, holding up pictures of the victims of these chemical

weapons attack, denouncing what happened, saying look at these pictures. Children gassed, lying there, very forceful demonstrations. She was

wearing her U.S. American flag. And, meanwhile, inside the chamber, the six years of arguments that have played out in the battles between the

U.S., France, and UK on one side, and China and Russia on the other.

We had that same show again. Only this time there were more very -- a lot of barbs thrown between these permanent representatives with veto power,

exasperated that the violence goes on but divided on what really is a solution and it began with the U.S. ambassador taking on China and Russia.


MATTHEW RYCROFT, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: And after Russia and China vetoed, it seems that the only message sent to Assad was one of

encouragement. And, yesterday, we saw the consequences of those vetoes.

LIU JIEYI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It's my hope that the UK delegate out of the question that draws international consensus that these

chemical weapons would stop abusing -- seek the council.

[14:05:07] VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV, DEPUTY RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Completely responsible and lacking in respect that is the statement by the

United Kingdom, by the ambassador of the United Kingdom. It's explained by the fact that you're not doing anything about the situation. You are doing

one thing, you are submitting drafts in the Security Council to only provoke.


AMANPOUR: So, Richard, there as you say the usual sort of back and forth between, you know, some permanent members and the other permanent members

and Russia basically saying you didn't go for this draft. But can you just dig down a little for me?

Because, look, we all say it's the same old, same old. Words being thrown around, arguments. But is it?

I mean, Samantha Power often took on Vitaly Churkin but never threaten or never suggested that the United States might take its own action like Nikki

Haley did today.

I didn't ever hear President Obama be as strong about Assad as President Trump was today in the White House.

Dig down and talk about that.

ROTH: I agree. I mean, I'm not trying to hide that fact. And you just don't know where the talk ends or if it is just talk. Certainly when

President Trump is already saying these passes lines, even red lines which he's bashed President Obama over, Nikki Haley walked in on her first day

here two months ago and said I'm going to be taking names. They've heard this regarding peacekeeping and everything. And she couched her comments

about if the U.N. doesn't get its act together in effect. So it's very significant.

I don't know how high can you go in the word game if you don't do anything? And then you'll get hit with accusations. So there are still other

permanent members of the council. The U.S. went alone on Iraq. Are they prepared to send a missile into Assad's bedroom tonight? It doesn't seem

that way. We'll have to see.

But certainly, it's the U.S. versus the U.N. and keeping the U.N. under the thumb of Washington regarding the threat of heavy, heavy budget cuts.

Major cuts were already made in other areas.

So this is the beginning of act one I think in the U.S. and the U.N. We're seeing it through the Syrian game right now.

It is really an incredible moment in this terribly devastating crisis. Richard, thank you so much from the U.N. there.

And, meantime in Brussels, foreign ministers were holding a donor's conference to rebuild Syria, and they've been calling for an investigation

into this deadly chemical attack. As the French foreign minister said, it is a test. That is why France repeats the messages notably to Americans to

clarify their position.

Well, earlier, I spoke to the Jan Egeland. He is the special adviser to the U.N. mission to Syria, and he's also head of the Norwegian Refugee


So he is at the meeting and he told me that unless the major powers can pull their supporters to the negotiating table, this violence and this

horror are likely to continue unabated.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Egeland, welcome to the program.

EGELAND: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Many people believe and have basically accused the Assad regime of carrying out this attack. Why? Because there is precedent. Assad's

powerful backers, the Russians say, no, this was an attack on a rebel held chemical facility and this is the result.

Is anybody ever going to get to the bottom of this? Or is the international community going to hide behind this claim/counterclaim?

EGELAND: What I hope is that they will indeed come to the bottom of this. To use chemical weapons is a war crime. To use it against women and

children is double war crime. There has to be responsibility for these things. The diplomats, the politicians have to succeed in their efforts to

bring peace to this carnage.

AMANPOUR: Well, there is some kind of gathering. I hate to call it peace talks, because up until now, we have seen absolutely nothing come out of

these talks that bring various sides together. And at Brussels, at the meeting, the British foreign secretary had this to say about President



BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I simply don't see how Bashar al-Assad can remain in charge after what he's already done. Of the 400,000

people who are estimated to have been killed in Syria, he is responsible for the vast majority of that butcher's bill. And you have to go a long

way back in history to find a tyrant who has stayed in office in such circumstances.


AMANPOUR: I mean, you hear very clearly what he's saying. I wonder if you agree?

EGELAND: Well, here I have to be cautious, because I lead a humanitarian organization with a massive presence among the civilians in the field. We

do not take political stance. However, I would say that indeed these world leaders now have to come together and form in the same direction.

If we have one team of nations going with the government, and one team of nations going with the rebels, this will just continue and continue


[14:10:20] AMANPOUR: I just want to bring up again what Boris Johnson said. He also, apart from talking about Assad bearing the majority of the

butcher's bill in Syria, he said that, "We, the UK and the United States in 2013 made a historic decision not to respond to crossing a red line."

And they used gas in Ghouta, and he said, "I'm afraid that vacated the field in Syria, and as everybody, we are living with the consequences."

How does that make you feel as a humanitarian, as a former U.N. official?

EGELAND: Well, it makes me feel very angry that, again, men with guns and power have gotten away with murder really now for six, seven years. But I

hope that this attack will be carefully investigated and accountability will be measured out. And that one day people will be brought to justice

for all of this. Some colleagues were killed in the chemical attack just two days ago. Such is our commitment. It allows us to do our job.

AMANPOUR: Some of your colleagues you say were killed in this attack. What are the circumstances?

EGELAND: Well, when we were at this important Syria conference with all of the diplomats and all of the aid officials, the reports were coming into

the homes of colleagues, courageous Syrian local organization that showed me and others, you know, images of children choking to death because of the

chemical substances. And then also they started to hear about colleagues in local Syrian relief organizations, medical organizations and others,

that were killed while rescuing civilians.

The death toll among humanitarians in this war is just horrific. So this was very grim, you know, background for a conference where, you know, men

with ties like me and women with dresses, were walking around and talking about Syria, and then suddenly understanding how the civilian population is

suffering and our inability so far to stop the carnage.

AMANPOUR: And what did the Syrian government representatives say when you were all looking at these terrible pictures?

EGELAND: You know, perhaps, this is a conference where Syrian government is not present. It is a conference, you know, co-hosted by the European

Union and several Western donors. Russia was not either there yesterday.

I saw Iran was there. I spoke to their diplomats. And urging both the Iranian side and the gulf countries who are, you know, supporting opposing

sides in this war. Can you please pull these men with guns to the negotiating table? Because this war cannot last another seven years.

Seven years should be enough. It's longer than the second world war.

Jan Egeland, thank you very much for joining me.

EGELAND: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we turn to the other geopolitical crisis. Just how to contain North Korea's dangerous nuclear ambitions. And why did

America's top diplomat respond to the missile test with a terse "No comment?" We dig down -- next.


[14:15:40] AMANPOUR: Turning now to North Korea, which has once again tested a missile ending this time in what the United States called a

spectacular failure.

The launch is extremely worrying, but this time it may be America's response that has raised the most eyebrows. Secretary of State Rex

Tillerson issued this statement, "North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough

about North Korea. We have no further comment."

And a short time ago, a significant change was announced to the National Security Council, the very body discussing the U.S. response to North


Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's chief strategist and the former Breitbart media boss, has lost his controversial seat on the council.

Joining me now from California is Jeffrey Lewis. He's director of the East Asia non-proliferation program at the Middlebury Institute for

International Studies.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, Mr. Lewis.

Can we start sort of unpicking what the administration is going to do about North Korea? I mean, first and foremost, how do you react to the statement

that came out of the State Department late last night? Was that a terse, I don't know what to say, or was that just wait and see what we do?


it as wait and see what they do. But it frankly was really baffling to me. You know, one of the most important jobs of the secretary of state is to

clearly communicate the messages coming out of Washington in a unified and clear fashion that allies can understand. And so any time you have a

statement where people are left scratching their heads, you can guess at what they mean, but really it's their job to be clear.

AMANPOUR: So, obviously, there is a huge conundrum. How does one deal with not just a state that has a nuclear program, like Iran, but one that

has nuclear warheads and is trying to militarize them and weaponize them.

So what do you think has to happen? Where are the guidelines towards how to rein this crisis in?

LEWIS: Well, we have to start by being honest. Our ability to get North Korea to abandon the nuclear weapons that I believe they have and already

have for deployment on their missiles that it's too late for that.

I mean, what we have to be focused on are steps to try to manage this problem and limit the situation from getting worse. So over the past few

months, we've seen that Korea is testing a new generation of missiles that use solid fuel, they are making steady progress towards an ICBM. And I

think they're going to conduct a nuclear test relatively soon and maybe not this year but within a year or two, they could be testing thermal nuclear


And so what we need to do is find a way to reduce the tensions and get a time-out. And so a time out is ultimately going to be something that looks

a little bit like a freeze, it's got to be some kind of reduction in U.S. exercises and relief from sanctions in order to get the North Koreans to

stop doing this. Because I think as long as we're in the mode where we talk tough but don't do anything about the problem, the North Koreans just

go on their merry way building one new nuclear missile after another.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, you just said relief from sanctions. You just heard the president of the United States in the Rose Garden talk about the

deal with Iran that offered relief from sanctions as the worst deal in the world. And, you know, that people -- you know, those who don't agree with

these kinds of negotiations and find them politically unpalatable say that only sanctions work and no carrots, no incentives, no relief.

Is that right in your view?

LEWIS: No. You know, I think it's the kind of thing that sounds good and everybody likes to sound tough. And nobody likes to be -- nobody likes to

be thought of as the kind of person who makes concessions. But when I look at any diplomatic agreement we have ever reached, and this is especially

true of the Iran agreement, while we emphasize the role of sanctions, because it makes us feel good about ourselves, the reality is that

ultimately you also have to make concessions, but there has to be carrots.

There has something in this for the North Koreans. Because, again, if all we do talk tough, all we are doing is giving them a permission slip to

continue making progress to what I think will eventually result in a North Korean thermonuclear weapon that sits on a North Korean ICDM that can

threaten the United States. So it stinks. I mean, nobody likes having to negotiate with countries that are fairly adversarial. But the reality is

North Koreans have some leverage. And we can either accept that reality or we can continue doing what we're doing or what we've been doing.

[14:20:00] AMANPOUR: You know, I've talked to quite a lot who have been to the region, who know, you know, the weapons of mass destruction picture.

They know the Kim regime. But they're not quite sure whether this new, young dictator is actually swayable.

If there's anything that can be given to try to contain the nuclear threat, what do you make of that?

LEWIS: Well, the first thing is you don't know until you try, right? So, ultimately, we have to constantly be open to the possibility of a

diplomatic solution, even if the winds at the moment are not particularly favorable.

I think the North Koreans, though, have laid out their price for an agreement. It's just that generally we found the price to be too high.

But, you know, ultimately this is a bargaining system, so you've got to take what they say about what they're willing to consider and make a

different offer. And, you know, in theory, you know, if you try, sometimes you succeed. If they be that we fail, but again, if we fail, we're no

worse off than where we are now, which is we're on a path to a North Korean thermonuclear weapon on an ICBM that can threaten the United States.

AMANPOUR: You know, you've repeated that several times. And it is a very, very scary thought. But there are many people who are experts like

yourself who believe that that is actually the path that they are on.

So what do you make then of the president, President Trump, who has, you know, rock solid said that it has to be China. And if China absolutely has

to do it and can do it and has the leverage, that's the first question.

And then what do you make of him telling the FT that if China doesn't do it, you know, we will.

LEWIS: Well, I think the China story is a little bit of a fantasy. It's a bedtime story we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that we don't

know quite what to do.

The Chinese have tried leverage over the North Koreans. They built a faction of pro-Chinese officials inside North Korea. It was led by Jang

Song-thaek who was Kim Jong-un's uncle.

Kim Jong-un's had him executed. He had him dragged from a meeting, beaten, and then executed apparently by an anti-aircraft machine gun.

The Chinese also protected Kim Jong-nam, who is Kim Jong-un's half brother. And they said agents who rubbed VX in his face in a Kuala Lumpur airport.

So if the Chinese can't protest Jang Song-thaek and Kim Jong-nam, I think it's very unreasonable to think that they really do have this kind of

leverage. And ultimately, again, you know, there is a lot of tough talk about North Korea. If you don't do it, we will. But often that's


You know, it sounds great. But what really is the plan? Is the plan actually to attack the North Koreans? Is the plan to actually test whether

they have nuclear weapons on missiles that are capable of being used? It seems like it's madness to me.

I mean, ultimately, we have to do the hardest thing which is we have to admit that we don't have as much leverage as we like. We have to admit

that an agreement that we are going to get is not going to be the ideal one. I know it's an unpleasant situation, but that's the reality.

AMANPOUR: Well, then to that end, what do you make of Steve Bannon, who is known to have a hard line view on most of the policy options that are being

thrashed out in the White House, being sort of removed or stepping down from the permanent position on the NSC that he had?

LEWIS: Yes. I mean, I think we have seen a substantial restructuring of the inner agency process in the National Security Council system since

McMaster has come aboard as the national security adviser. And this just strikes me as a return to normal. A reassertion of the traditional way

that these things are done, and so you know I find welcome and reassuring.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Jeffrey Lewis, thank you so much indeed for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And after a break tonight, we imagine a devastating Brexit, forcing nations apart with a cataclysm of massive natural disasters. But

relax, it already happened 500,000 years ago. We'll explain, next.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as European MEPs voted to take a hard stance on Brexit negotiations in Strasburg today, tonight, we imagine a far

tougher break-up, call it Brexit 1.0.

A new study from the prestigious Imperial College here in London says the British Isles first split from mainland Europe 500,000 years ago.

Originally, the UK was connected to France by a huge, chalky land bridge that covered the channel. But it was in for a horrible demise. The first

blow to old Europe coming more than 400,000 years ago, when glacial lakes began overflowing, creating gigantic waterfalls, weakening the dam-like

structure of the bridge. Then hundreds of thousands of years later, a second bout of catastrophic mega flooding sealed the deal completely

severing the UK from continental Europe and creating the continent as we now call it today.

Let's all have our fingers crossed that our man-made Brexit rupture from Europe is a little less dramatic.

That is it for our program tonight. And, remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.