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Violent Protest In Venezuela; U.S. Send Strike Group In Response To North Korean Threats; Deadly Airstrikes Again Hit Rebel- Held Syrian Town. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2017 - 02:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only on CNN in association with Zenith Bank.

[02:02:02] ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Arwa Damon at the Mosul Dam in Iraq. And this is CNN.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: A group of U.S. warships is heading toward the Korean Peninsula, a direct response to North Korean Missile test. We'll be live from Seoul with the latest.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Back in business. The Syrian airbase recently targeted by U.S. Missiles is up and running.

At more deadly airstrikes target the same town hit by chemical weapon.

VANIER: And another day of violent protest on the streets of Venezuela as opposition grows against the government and the President Nicolas .

VANIER: Hi everyone! Thank you so much for joining us, I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen, CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

VANIER: So the U.S. is building a pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear threats. U.S. defense official says an American carrier strike group is headed towards the Korean peninsula. Now, a strike group is a formation of Navy assets and this one includes the aircraft carrier that you're looking at right now.

ALLEN: This is not an unusual military move. The U.S. regularly deploys aircraft carriers to the Korean peninsula as the show of force. Our Alexandra Field joins us now from Seoul, South Korea of more about that. But these are particularly tense times than what is usually tense times on that peninsula. Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Natalie. You know, the significance here clearly is in the timing. The decision to bring the USS Vinson back to the Korean peninsula after it left the area just a short while ago. It had been participating in a joint military exercise with the South Korean military. So yes, the presence of this aircraft carriers in the region certainly not unusual as you mentioned. But U.S. officials are telling CNN that this decision to bring the USS Vinson back here is a direct result of North Korean provocation. It is a clear message the fact that this aircraft carrier is headed back to these waters. And it comes on the heels of other messages that we have seen being sent from Washington. White House officials saying that all options are on the table.

When it comes to dealing with North Korea. And President Donald Trump himself saying that if China won't solve North Korea, the U.S. would. What are the provocations that we're talking about? Well, four missile tests from North Korea just since the start of the year. That is certainly an exceptional escalation of the missile test you've soon now more than two dozen missile tests out of North Korea in just the last year. We know that North Korea has the ambitions to be able to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range inter-continental ballistic missile that would be capable of reaching the U.S. That is the ambition of that has been stated by Kim Jung-un. And these test that we have seen not just with missile launches but also with missile engines have indicated to analyst and to experts that North Korea is, in fact, making advances with both its missile program and its nuclear program enough to alarm the international community and to provoke responses like the one that we are seeing right now with USS Vincent headed back these waters. Natalie?

ALLEN: Right. And you spoke about President Trump meeting with Xi Jinping of China, what about the new leader there in South Korea? How is the communication with Washington?

FIELD: There's been a lot of communication with Washington since President Trump took office back in January. And there's been a decision that's been reaffirmed over and over again by officials both in Washington and here in South Korea to continue to move forward with the deployment of the controversial THAAD missile defense system. That's a missile defense system that China has strongly objected to. The Chinese have insisted that the radar that is a part of that system could be used to spy on the Chinese that it's part of an effort by the U.S. to contain China in its own region.

It was certainly a topic of conversation between President Trump and Xi Jinping when he went to visit President Trump at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week. President Donald Trump did speak with the acting President of South Korea after that meeting saying that he impressed upon the Chinese President the importance of deploying that THAAD system and in working together to combat the growing nuclear threat presented by North Korea. Natalie?

ALLEN: Alexandra Field for us there in Seoul. For more now, here's Cyril.

VANIER: Earlier we spoke with Han Park, Professor of International Affairs at the University of Georgia, author of North Korea Demystified.


VANIER: What does it tell you that the U.S. is sending navy carrier strike group to the Peninsula? That's a lot of fire power.

HAN PARK, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PROFESSOR: Very scary. In fact, in North Korea, will not relinquish its nuclear weapons because the nuclear capability (INAUDIBLE) is common as opposed to military weapons. Without the nuclear capability, nuclear bombs, North Korean regime will lose its legitimacy against the people. So they're not going to give it up that easily. So this means that North Korea may be led to believe that something is coming by way of military attack from the United States, then North Koreans may try to do something before that happens.


[02:05:34] ALLEN: Han Park, speaking with us earlier. The same rebel-held Syrian town hit by deadly nerve agent Tuesday was struck again Saturday by conventional airstrike. It's not known who drop the bombs but the renewed airstrike came after the U.S. barrage of cruise missile against the Syrian airfield in retaliation for the chemical attack. Here's the latest now by CNN's Clarissa Ward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Syrian activist on the ground inside Syria have told CNN that at least one woman was killed and three people injured in renewed airstrike on the town, Khan Sheikhoun, where that horrific gas attack took place earlier this week killing 89 people, at least 33 of them believed to have been children. And while no one had claimed responsibility for these strikes, it's important to remember that the only fighter jet in the skies over the rebel-held Idlib province are Russian military jets and also the Syrian airforce jets. So most probably it is one of those two parties who is responsible for this. This is nothing out of the ordinary. We do see regular regime airstrikes on Idlib province but certainly, it cannot be considered a coincidence that they have once again targeted the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

It appears that the regime is essentially trying to put a defiant phase on this. To say to the international community and to the U.S. that we will not be cowed. That it is business as usual and this is what we also saw today at the Shayrat air base where the U.S. strike took place. Syrian jets once again taking off from that airbase in an apparent display of defiance. Again this shouldn't really come into surprise because the state of objective of those U.S. strikes was not to wonder the airbase unusable but simply to deter the regime from ever using chemical weapons. The question now becomes, how does this change everything on the battlefield? How does this change the dynamic if the Syrian conflict?

At this stage, it's too early to say but everyone looking very closely forward to the meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as some kind of an indication of whether the situation escalates or whether things now continue as normal. Clarissa Ward, CNN on the Turkish-Syrian border.


ALLEN: President Trump is telling Congress why he ordered the missile strike on the Syrian air base. Mr. Trump sends a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch saying "I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons." "Thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe."

VANIER: And the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley also gave some more explanation on American goals for Syria. She spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is regime change in Syria now the official policy of the United States?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.: So there's multiple priorities," she said. "It's -- getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we're trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out, and then, finally, move towards a political solution, because at the end of the day, this is a complicated situation. There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," Haley told "State of the Union" anchor Jake Tapper. "It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

TAPPER: Well, of course, it's hard to but is the position of the Trump administration that he cannot be ruler of Syria anymore. Regime change is the policy.

HALEY: Well, regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to say that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taken place for Syria.


VANIER: And Ambassador Haley also mentioned Iran which backs the Assad regime in Syria. Iran's President condemned the U.S. strike.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This man who is taken over the U.S.' affairs once claims they wanted to combat terrorism. However, today, Syria's terrorists are happy about the U.S. invasion in Syria and are celebrating it.


ALLEN: And we'll have more of Ambassador Nikki Haley's entire conversation about the situation with our Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION", Sunday 2:00 p.m. in London, 9:00 p.m. in Hong Kong.

[02:10:14] VANIER: The top diplomats for the U.S. and Russia discussed the Syrian situation by phone on Saturday. Let's get more on that with Paula Newton who's in Moscow. Paula, this is back and forth between Rex Tillerson for the U.S. and Sergey Lavrov of Russia is the highest level of communication between the two countries since Trump became President, how is that going so far?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're trying to get at is a lot of what Nikki Haley has spoken about there. What are the parameters of the U.S. renewed resolve of what's going on Syria? We only got a read out about this phone call from the Russian Minister here, Cyril. And basically the Russian Ministry saying, look, we stressed again that an attack on a country fighting terrorism is not productive if you really want to get at the extremist there. And they're getting at the fact that, look, in Syria, the Syrian forces, Russia, the U.S. coalition were all trying to fight ISIS. And by attacking the Syria's -- Syrian forces, the Russians claimed, look, that's just not doable.

Having said that when you -- when you look at that meeting coming up on Wednesday between Russia and the United States, they're really getting an indication from Nikki Haley there that they're not going to go to the table. At least if you take her at her word, and say, "we must have regime change this moment" what's crucial about that is they clearly do not want to take actions. They don't want to underline that policy because then that means the U.S. is going to have to effect that change somehow. What they're going to try and do is nudge Russia closer to trying to detach from Assad and perhaps leave him a little more isolated than they have so far. Again, the U.S. government will be watching very closely as to whether or not Russia has any flexibility on its backing for Assad.

VANIER: Paula, Moscow has expressed anger at the U.S. strike in Syria, But ultimately Moscow doesn't support the use of chemical weapons either. So, how genuine is this Russian anger I hear?

NEWTON: Yes. Not only -- it's a good point, Cyril. Not only do they not support this, they were responsible for essentially underwriting that agreement that came out in 2013 that said, Russia, Vladimir Putin, put his signature on that document to say, OK, we are going to be the people who guarantee to you that Assad has taken all of his chemical weapons. Cyril, what happen, we've had a violation that was reported in July 2016 by the U.N. Committee doing that to say, look, we have not been giving access to all the sites that we on to access to. So, we don't know if there's a violation but we can't guarantee that there isn't one. Having said all of that, Cyril, the point is Russia -- this entire act of -- by Syrian regime, how it's acted in the last week has really put Russia in a very difficult spot. Because the do want to continue to back Assad. Assad is the person who gives the most influence in the region. But at the same time, it will be now difficult to come to the table with Rex Tillerson without having ti really look at that chemical weapon situation. He will be looking at Russia and the Pentagon push back on Friday saying, why are there chemical in Syria? We thought you guys have this under control.

VANIER: Absolutely. Paula Newton, reporting live from Moscow. Thank you very much.

David Rhode joins us now. CNN Global Affairs Analyst. David, most of the victims in this Syrian civil war are killed by conventional weapons. This happens daily. A small minority of the victims are killed by chemical weapons. So by sending a clear message that it will not tolerate chemical weapons, isn't that U.S. also sending a message that it's willing to look the other way for the rest of the killing in this war which counts the vast majority of deaths.

DAVID RHODES, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIR ANALYST: It is. And that's the reality of what's going on here. Most of the signals from the Trump administration are that they -- this is about chemical weapons and there was a clear desire say -- you know, you cannot use this type of weapon in an attack. But yes, that will not end this real conflict. As you saw today immediately the Syrian air force was again attacking that same town with a chemical weapons attack occur but they just used conventional bombs instead.

VANIER: So that -- so that shows us then that Syrians have understood that message to mean, you can carry on with what you used to do, just don't use chemical weapons?

RHODES: Yes. And it's really critical that the Trump administration sort of get its messaging straight. In an interview with CNN United States, the Trump administration's ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, she talked very forcefully. She mentioned -- you know, getting rid of Islamic state first of its priority. But then she spoke very forcefully about the need to remove -- you know, Assad from power and then she made a statement that the need to remove Iranian influence from Syria. Those are both hugely ambitious goals. And I think the administration needs to be very careful about what it's -- what it's saying it's trying to achieve in Syria because -- you know, that could create real problems.

[02:15:10] VANIER: Yes. And -- but she did lay out three or four things the U.S. wants to do in Syria, and the top one as you said was fighting ISIS first and foremost before they even addressed the case of Bashar al-Assad. Tell me what you make of the Russian reaction so far.

RHODES: I think they -- you know, the rhetoric is to be expected. You know, the cutting of the communications channel is of concern. But I think if Trump does nothing further, I think -- and essentially the Syrian air force and Russian planes are allowed to continue dropping conventional bombs, I'm not sure the Russians will -- you know, will take any military steps. They don't want to see this escalate militarily either. But they will -- I think tough rhetoric, I think they'll -- you know, nothing really come out of this meeting this week by Secretary Tillerson.

VANIER: What about -- David, what about bringing their own frigate with their own cruise missiles into the same aria where you have U.S. warships?

RHODES: I agree. It's -- this is all potentially dangerous. But my concern is that -- is some sort of accident would happen. I don't believe -- you know, Russia wants -- they're flexing their muscles for their own domestic political reasons, for their allies around the world. They need to show that they will respond by moving this frigate into place. I'm just -- you know, disaster could strike. There could be some accident that occurred in terms of use of force but I don't think Russia wants any an actual -- you know, any kind of lethal conflict with the U.S. forces at sea or in the -- in the sky over Syria.

VANIER: David, you're a keen observer of this administration's foreign policy, of course, which is still developing, sort of still being defined. What has the past week, and it's been really rich, what does the past week told you about Trump's foreign policy? He met with the Egyptian President, the most obviously striking aspect of the past week were

the U.S. raids on Syria, he -- that happened while he was meeting with Chinese President. What do you feel you took out of the last seven days?

RHODES: I think it's -- you know, that Trump wants to be seen as unpredictable, that he definitely will use force when he -- when he feels it's necessary. And you know, there's some confusion here because in terms of human rights, he -- you know, expresses great sympathy for the children that died in the chemical attack in Syria, but he's been banning Syrian refugees from coming to the United States. And he vociferously praised you Egyptian's President Sisi who has been accused of killing hundreds -- you know and jailing thousands, some say tens of thousands of his opponents in Egypt, so it's an unclear message. Trump say they want that, they want to keep -- you know, adversaries guessing but -- you know, they need to settle down on some clearer themes, I think to be successful in the long run.

VANIER: All right. CNN Global Affairs Analyst, David Rhode. Thank you so much.

RHODES: Thank you.

ALLEN: We take a look next at what's going on in the street of Venezuela as protesters face off against the government. More about that in just a moment.

VANIER: Plus, North Korea reacts to the U.S. attack in Syria. We'll have a report from inside Pyongyang after the break. Stay with us.


[02:20:00] ALLEN: Recapping our top story now. A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group is cruising towards the Korean Peninsula. This just days after North Korea test fired yet another missile.

VANIER: And there's also playing out of course in the whiter context of the U.S. striking a Syrian air base. Now, that was taken very seriously in North Korea. Here's Will Ripley in Pyongyang with reaction there.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without question, the North Koreans are watching the actions of United States very closely. Their news agency, their official news agency put out a statement strongly condemning President Trump's decision to launch that missile strike on the air base in Syria. They believe that it fully justifies their efforts to develop nuclear weapons including a workable intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear tip warhead capable of reaching the mainland, United States. They call those nuclear weapons their sort of justice against the U.S. and this really does play into their narrative that has been ongoing for so many years, which is that this country is under the imminent threat of invasion or military action by the United States.

Officials here believe that missiles from the U.S. could come raining down on Pyongyang at any time. Which is why North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un has told his country that they will become a nuclear power even if it means sacrificing things like electricity or the best quality food to do so. Officials here told me, they are not afraid of heightened sanctions. If China were to step up enforcement which is what the U.S. wants them to do. Because basically, the last program to be cut would be the nuclear program or the missile program. They view these weapons as vital to their survival as a nation. And they were also watching very closely that meeting between President Trump and Chinese President XI Jinping. One official told me that they do not believe it was coincidental that President Trump ordered that missile strike while he was having dinner with the Chinese President.

They believe that was a threat not only to China but also to North Korea as well. So tensions really are high here. Certainly higher than I've seen in eleven visits to this country and yet you look around Pyongyang and it looks like an ordinary Sunday morning. There are hundreds of runners here, ready to race in the Pyongyang marathon. And the lead story in the local paper is about North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a mushroom factory. A very slow news day here in Pyongyang, even as satellite imagery shows this country is ready to push the button on its six nuclear test at any time. Will Ripley, CNN Pyongyang.

VANIER: Moving on now, the anger in Venezuela is growing against the government. On the streets of Caracas, protesters were shouting down President Nicolas as a dictator. Police shot tear gas into the crowd which some protesters been threw back. ALLER: Others burn trash and these rocks and bombs made of petrol,

Mr. 's banning of an opposition leaders forked these demonstrations. Our Rafael Romo has more about it.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Saturday's clashes were due in part to a fact that the Venezuelan government has banned a very popular opposition leader from doing any political work. Thousands of people were marching down Francisco de Miranda Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in Caracas toward the capital's downtown where most national government buildings were located.

At one point, they were stopped by the National Guard. Now, opposition lawmaker described the moment to CNN saying tear gas bombs started raining on us. Former Presidential Candidate Henrique Capriles was hold Friday, he can no longer do any political activity, said the show of force is unnecessary.

HENRIQUE CAPRILES, VENEZUELA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): This is repression. This is a crime. They're committing crimes and violating human rights by stepping on the rights of people. The government has staged a self-coup and what they're now doing to me is part of it.

ROMO: This is the fifth consecutive day of protest in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela. Demonstrators are also protesting the Venezuelan Supreme Court which issued a ruling stripping the parliament of its legislative power and giving it to itself. The court reversed its decision after widespread condemnation in Venezuela and abroad in three days of protest. Earlier this week, socialist President Nicolas Maduro describe the protesters as terrorist and vandals.

NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELA PRESIDENT: We have them all identical, their all identical. They will fall one by one and they will go straight to face justice.

ROMO: The President said 30 people have been detained by the Venezuelan human rights group reported Saturday. There had been 164 detentions since Tuesday. Venezuelan's facing a deep humanitarian crisis partly by an economic meltdown. Shortages of basic food products and medicines are commonplace. The Venezuelan opposition collected enough signatures to hold a legal referendum but the government's electoral council has delayed and blocked efforts to carry out elections. Rafael Romo, CNN Atlanta.


ALLEN: We have a dramatic new video that shows the chaos during the deadly truck attack in Sweden Friday. You can see shoppers panicking, fleeing for safety as this truck races through the retail area in Stockholm.

VANIER: And when that was over, four people were dead, 15 others were wounded. Max Foster has the latest now from the Swedish Capitol.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: A wall of flowers now shields the attack sight behind me from view. The 39-year-old man from Uzbekistan, he's lived in Stockholm for some time I understand is under police custody and is the main suspect. He was on the intelligence radar in this country just as other suspects in other similar attacks around here were as well.

The king came out today and said Sweden is still a safe place and the prime minister demonstrated it by walking down the shopping street here chatting to people along the way, showing that this is a city that hasn't been cowed in the face of terror. A man is to speak for the foreign minister about the idea as well of how this is a country that has to hold on to town leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we learn something from this or do we just have to learn to live with this type of thing now?

MARGOT WALLSTROM, SWEDEN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think we should learn to live with it. I think it has -- it has also really sort of mobilize all the opposition to terrorist and more to any kinds of violence of this kind and I think a determination to continue to defend our way of life and our societies that are open, democratic and wants freedom.

FOSTER: A technical device, as the police described it, was found in the vehicle. The state broadcaster is calling it a bomb. If that has gone off, things have been a lot worst. As it is, at least four are dead and many more injured and the country is trying to find a way of understanding what happened in the streets behind me. Max Foster, CNN Stockholm, Sweden.

ALLEN: And that is our program this half hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: All right. Thank you very much for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier, do stay with us. I'll be back with a quick recap of your headlines in just a moment. Stick around.


VANIER: Welcome back everyone. All right.