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ISIS Claims Egyptian Church Bombings; Syrian Conflict & Russia on Agenda for G7 Summit; Festive Mood in Pyongyang Despite Tensions; Swedish Police Arrest Second Man after Terror Attack; Chinese Company Brings Thousands of Jobs to U.S.; North Korea Holds Marathon as Nuclear Tensions Escalate. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:24] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Palm Sunday attack. ISIS claims responsibility for two blast (inaudible) in churches in Egypt killing 47 people, wounding more than 100.

Mixed messages from America's top diplomats on U.S. policy towards Syria and Russia.

And a festive mood in Pyongyang despite rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We'll have a live report from the North Korean capital.

It's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.

Palm Sunday turned into tragedy for Egypt's Christian community. ISIS has claimed responsibility for bombings at two Coptic churches. At least 47 people were killed more than 100 wounded.

CNN's Ian Lee has more for us from Egypt. But a warning -- his report contains video that's disturbing.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A day of celebration turns to mourning as a bomb ripped through a crowded church in Tanta, Egypt. The devastation, the carnage, familiar barbarism as ISIS claims responsibility.

EMID EDWARD SAIB (PH), WOUNDED IN ATTACK (through translator): I was sitting in the front and suddenly everything went dark. I passed out and someone pushed me off my feet. A few seconds later, I got up and saw bodies all around me.

LEE: Then hours later, the Coptic pope delivers his sermon in the port city of Alexandria. Outside, a man in a blue jacket tries to gain entry. When denied, he detonates his bomb.

So much innocent bloodshed on this holiest of days. Sadness quickly turned to rage and Christians mobbed a regional police chief. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The authorities have received warnings before that the church is being targeted. Why weren't proper measures taken to protect people?

LEE: ISIS has been stepping up attacks against Christians here in Egypt, killing dozens in previous months. With nerves raw and tempers high, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi urges unity.

ABDEL FATTAH EL SISI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): I want to say to the Egyptians who can here me now. You must know that what is being done is an attempt to destroy you, to tear you apart because if you are one unit, it will be difficult for anyone to defeat this country.

LEE: The president declared emergency law for three months, granting the police and army extra powers. It's hard to quantify this type of violence.

Everyone outside this church in Tanta has a story of a loved one. The pain seen in the eyes of the survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw blood and organs of our friends.

LEE: This is your friend's blood.


LEE: On the robe. What happened to your friend?


LEE: This Christian man asked me when, when will he be able to pray in peace?

A question tonight with no answer.

Ian Lee, CNN -- in Tanta, Egypt.


ALLEN: Joining me now is Mokhtar Awad, research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Thank you for being with us.

Let's just start off by asking why is ISIS targeting Egypt's Christians?

MOKHTAR AWAD, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, for many years, ISIS has been trying to expand its reach inside the Egyptian mainland. It's hoping that by attacking the Christian minority, it will somehow instigate sectarian strike, in other words, one of the easier ways to instability. This strategy has worked for them in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and are hoping to replicate it in Egypt.

ALLEN: And also wrote that this attack, the most deadly in decades against Christians here in Egypt represents a sea change for Christians here. What did you mean?

AWAD: Well, unfortunately ISIS is trying to introduce an idea that exists elsewhere. In other words the people that they declare as their enemies can be killed indiscriminately for no reason whatsoever other than whom they are.

Christians have long been victims of persecution in Egypt by Islamists, even ordinary Muslim mobs. However, the idea that a Christian can be subject to murder at any time for any reason is definitely something that's new.

[00:04:58] And so ISIS is trying to strike fear, hopefully I don't believe they're going to be successful, but it's a sea change just because of this dimension because we've seen how people who are inspired by ISIS and people act on behalf of ISIS don't seem to have any trouble in indiscriminately killing civilians.

ALLEN: And they've worked on security at the Christian cathedrals and churches since ISIS laid out this threat. But we say, you know, that it's very hard to stay ahead of radicals in what happened there on Sunday. What is the burden now that Egypt has as far protecting 10 percent of its population, the Christians?

AWAD: Well, it's a really monumental task. The issue is two-folds here. Really the smaller part of this is the physical security of houses of worship. Unfortunately in Egypt, houses of worship have long been secured by police, primarily because they've been targets for decades.

What they need there is a far more robust and serious security regime because most of the time the people they have on these details are conscripts who don't really have significant training.

More importantly though, Egypt needs serious security sector reform especially in its intelligence capacities inside Egypt proper itself to be able to protect and disrupt these threats because obviously ISIS will always attempt and they're like finding a needle in a haystack.

However an attack like today, a double attack coordinated, possibly could have been prevented had security forces been able to detect the attack before it happened and the fact that two cells in Egypt's Nile delta were planning such an attack.

And so it's a two-fold issue. Physical security but also improving intelligence capacity.

ALLEN: Our thanks to Mokhtar Awad of George Washington University for joining us there.

Now to Syria. The United States has taken strong action against the Syrian regime but two of its top diplomats are sending mixed signals about what's next.

Last week's military strike in Syria was a response to the deadly chemical weapons attack blamed on Bashar al Assad's regime. On Sunday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Rex

Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State seemed to differ on what should happen next.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Ten days ago, you said that getting Assad out of Syria would no longer be a priority for the United States. Obviously since then was the chemical weapons attack.

But I'm trying to figures out, is regime change in Syria now the official policy of the United States.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: So there's multiple priorities. It's -- getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we're trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. There is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward. And it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al Assad.


ALLEN: A crucial American ally is calling Russia complicit in the deadly chemical attack in Syria. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon is criticizing Moscow for its support of Syrian president al Assad. He's described the attack as a war crime and says that by proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week.

The British government has voiced support for the United State's decision to target the Syrian air base.

One of Donald Trump's most vocal critics is also praising the U.S. president's actions. Republican Senator John McCain called the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airbase an excellent first step. But he questioned whether the operation went far enough since the Syrian air field reopened less than 24 hours after the strike.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: -- taking out all their support facilities doesn't let them fly with any consistency but the signal that they're able to fly almost right away out of the same facility indicates that I don't think we did as thorough enough job which would have been cratering the runways.

And somebody will say, well then they can fill the runways and we can crater them again too.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster says the missile strikes were a warning shot to Syria.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What's significant about the strike is not that it was meant to take out the Syrian regime's capacity or ability to commit mass murder of its own people. But it was to be a very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors that the United States cannot stand idly by as he is murdering innocent civilians. What was the red line in 2013?


[00:10:06] ALLEN: Let's talk more about it. CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer joins me now via Skype from Newport Beach, California. Thank you -- Bob.

And we just heard both men talking about the scale of this attack. Would it have been to crater than runway or was this the appropriate warning military maneuver?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this was the safest attack they could undertake -- Natalie and that was cruise missiles, Tomahawk missiles. They could be fired from boats. To crater that runway you would need to do with jets, you know, drop big bombs. You can run into the Russian air force in the air, very risky, tensions are high.

And as they said this was a message to the Syrians, you know. 2013 they agreed to get rid of their poison gas and mainly sarin. They clearly haven't. I think it's been established that this was a gas attack; whether it was sarin or not, we're not quite certain. It killed a lot of people and you just look at the evidence on the ground.

And also Tillerson, he's gone ahead and blamed the Russians for this because they were part of this 2013 agreement. The Russians were not able to follow through so the Russians do have culpability in this.

ALLEN: Right. And you know, talking about this chemical attack, we know that with Russia and Iran's help, Assad has won back a good chunk of his country. ISIS has been pushed back.

Why now, is it because he's gained the ground, would he decide on chemical weapons again?

BAER: I think that Assad feels that he's at the end game. He can take back the major cities. He can take back Idlib Province. There's also a question whether he wants to drive more refugees into Turkey.

Remember that he's -- this isn't one man carrying on this war. It's the Alawite minority whose survival is in question. And it truly isn't. They're doing (inaudible).

They figure if they can, you know, it's sectarian cleansing if you like. And that's the only way they can take the country back. And you know, they have their reasons for doing this. This is not pure evil.

They are truly scared and they think that maybe this is it with the Russians still there, the Iranians. They want to get this over as quickly as possible. Clearly it was a mistake but you have to look at their calculations and not necessarily Washington's.

ALLEN: What would you imagine the Assad response to be or, you know, their relationship with Russia? Russia is their ally and now we have Rex Tillerson heading to speak with Russia. What could be on his plate to try to put some kind of wedge in between Russia and Assad, or at least Russia's influence with Assad?

BAER: I don't think there's much. There's reports -- unconfirmed reports that same air field was used to drop cluster bombs and white phosphorus on the same population which is equally damaging. And if in fact that's true they're sending a message to us, no we're not giving up, no we're not going to get rid of Assad, and no the Iranians are not going to leave Syria. It's just not going to happen.

I mean our choice, the United States' choice would be to send in massive and frankly an invasion of American troops which is not going to happen. This is a stalemate and frankly this is just going to continue on for a couple more years.

ALLEN: It has certainly been a stalemate indeed.

Thank you -- Bob Baer as always for your analysis. We appreciate it.

BAER: Thank you.

ALLEN: North Korea is reacting to the U.S. redeployment of a carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula. Government officials in Pyongyang tell CNN sending the warships is yet another provocation by the U.S.

This is not an unusual American military move. The U.S. often shows off its military force in the region. The Trump administration is now defending its decision to send the strike group.


MCMASTER: Well, it's prudent to do it, isn't it? I mean North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior. This is a rogue, a regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime. And President Xi and President Trump agreed that that is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

And so the President has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and to our allies and partners in the region.


ALLEN: Well, let's go now to Seoul, South Korea live. Our Alexandra Field has been covering the story for us.

[00:15:02] And what's the reaction there to this movement by the U.S. -- Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie -- we're hearing from the defense ministry what you'd expect to hear. That the movement of the U.S. Vinson back towards the waters off the Korean Peninsula is surely a sign of the seriousness with which the U.S. takes the mounting threats from North Korea, the mounting nuclear threats and the acceleration of their missile testing program which we have seen continue to unfold -- some four tests since just the start of the year.

What you hear the national security adviser there just say about looking into all the options and presenting them to the President has become something of the drumbeat from Washington.

It is still not clear from here what Trump's policy toward North Korea specifically will be. We know he has called repeatedly on China, North Korea's closest ally in the region to apply pressure that would lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

But there is no real clarity on what the Trump administration's next move will be other than to say that all options are now on the table. You heard the White House officials come out and say that just last week. And even when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in the region about a month ago, he also said that all options would be on the table including a military option. Yes. The military option is in theory always on the table but it is something that is not often discussed because it is certain that any kind of preemptive strike on North Korea would lead to retaliation against South Korea, the 24 million people in the wider Seoul metro area.

But you do have the USS Vinson returning to the waters off the peninsula. We should be very clear about what this means. As you pointed out it is not unusual for a U.S. aircraft carrier to be in these waters.

You've got some 30,000 U.S. troops who are stationed in South Korea on a permanent basis. They're routinely doing joint military drills with their counterparts in the South Korean army. But this clearly is intended as a show of force, of flexing its muscle. You've got U.S. officials saying that it is a direct response to the provocations from North Korea.

And there are a lot of people in this part of the world who are wondering if we will soon see more provocation from North Korea. They've got a series of political events coming up including their founder's birthday. These are oftentimes when you do see provocative acts from North Korea like another nuclear test, like additional missile tests -- things that everyone is keeping their eyes on now -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Absolutely. They do seem rather unstoppable right now when it comes to showing the world what they could do back.

Thank you -- Alexandra Field for us there in Seoul, South Korea.

Coming up here, how a top Chinese company is bringing thousands of jobs to a devastated town in the state of Ohio in the U.S.

Plus, a second suspect arrested in connection with Sweden's deadly truck attack. We'll have the latest on the investigation coming next here.


[0020] KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hello, everyone. I'm CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis and this is your weather watch.

April is one of those fickle months. It happens every year just when you think you're sliding into those warmer spring time, temperatures -- well, here we go.

[00:20:07] On the backside of the weather system moving across the northern tier, some areas picking up some snowfalls but not before producing some thunderstorms that are expected to be rumbling around places like Minneapolis, also into Des Moines, just passing by St. Louis but on the backside of this, there you can see that strip of purple and white and that indicates where the snow fall is expected.

About 17 million people all the way from near Detroit to Chicago down towards Dallas and Austin, Texas looking at the potential for severe weather. It could be hail, high winds or maybe an isolated tornado.

Thunderstorms for Dallas and 25 degrees; Chicago looking at some thunderstorms. Also thunderstorms for Vancouver and 11 for a high; Miami partly cloudy and 27 degrees.

Let's take a look around the Caribbean and across Mexico and Central America -- Mexico City, 28 degrees; Managua is looking at 35, the expected high temperature there; Lima, Peru 28 and sunshine; Brazilia 29 and partly cloudy.


ALLEN: Police in Sweden have made a second arrest after Friday's terror attack. Four people were killed when a driver hijacked this truck plowing it into a crowd in the capital.

Police say a man they arrested after the attack was likely behind the wheel. Prosecutors now say the second man is being held on suspicion of terror.

Dramatic new video shows the chaotic moments of that attack. This is the view from inside a store. You can see people running, even the truck speeding by right there. The street is normally just for pedestrians.

But as our Max Foster reports, terror has not scared Swedes away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's been a fierce determination here in Sweden to get life back to normal. That message has come from the King and the Prime Minister right down to the ordinary Swedes.

So imagine that this was the street where the attacker came thundering down in his truck. That's how busy it would have been. Amazing to think that there weren't more deaths, that there weren't more injuries. But the message here is that people should carry on with their ordinary lives in defiance of that horrendous terror threat.

The truck came thundering down here into this department store. They've put up a ply board as you can see to replace that smashed window. And instead of just leaving it there people are coming and it's almost turned into a makeshift shrine. You can see messages there. People have penned the message RIP but most noticeably and repeatedly the words, "tillsammans" which means "together".

All the flowers have been taken from areas like this, in place from some steps around the corner for a vigil and that was a national moment for the country to come together.

There's been a huge outpouring of gratitude as well to the emergency services and their rapid response to the attack on Friday. So people are laying flowers on police cars, for example, with cards saying "we're proud of what you did".

Max Foster, CNN -- Stockholm, Sweden.


ALLEN: In economic news, back in the United States, the President Donald Trump has accused China of stealing American manufacturing jobs. But now a Chinese company is making good on a $1 billion promise to bring thousands of jobs to the U.S.

Matt Rivers takes us to an Ohio town that's benefiting.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Moraine, Ohio just south of Dayton is an area that used to be. It used to be filled with factories and manufacturing jobs. There used to be cheap breakfast specials across the street.

But this is the Rust Belt, so the restaurants closed, the jobs left and the factories rusted out.


RIVERS: We met Shane Reffert (ph), a local in a place where Moraine has pinned its hopes. Fuyao Glass, a Chinese company opened this new $600 million plant last October in the center of this small Ohio town. It supplies auto glass to a resurging industry in Detroit and elsewhere. More than 2,000 people now work here and plans for hundreds more.

REFFERT: It makes you feel good as a person. It makes you feel more complete. I mean you're needed somewhere.

RIVERS: For decades this plant was occupied by General Motors. They made trucks and SUVs but it closed back in 2008 and laid off thousands.

[00:25:02] This SUV right here is the last one that rolled off the line before GM shut its doors. That windshield is the first one that Fuyao made after it took over.

Fuyao is a Chinese company that's invested a billion dollars overall into U.S. operations but if the whole made in America thanks to China concept feels ironic, it could be because of this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing.

RIVERS: The President campaigned on anti-China rhetoric accusing it of stealing millions of American jobs -- jobs he says he'll bring back.

His tough talk resonated with people in this part of Ohio. The factory sits in Montgomery County which voted Obama in 2008 and 2012 but went narrowly for Trump in 2016. It's one of the key counties that delivered him the presidency. And yet here in Moraine, there's thousands of people relying on a Chinese company for a paycheck.

CNN met Fuyao's chairman in Beijing.

Why hasn't the President's rhetoric about China scared you off?

CAO DEWANG, CHAIRMAN OF FUYAO GLASS: "I'm a businessman", he says, "so is Trump". I think his threats are just campaign talk.

RIVERS: The company has faced accusations of low pay and safety violations. There's a drive to unionize workers. Fuyao says it's addressing the concerns and plans to be here permanently.

We asked Shane Reffert what he'd be doing otherwise.

REFFERT: That's a tough question. Trying to find another new job which is very hard here in Dayton.

RIVERS: The hope is that Fuyao will bring back other local jobs to an area that was until recently all about what used to be now focused on what might be.

Matt Rivers, CNN -- Moraine, Ohio.


ALLEN: And coming up here the U.S. Secretary of State and foreign ministers from some of the world's biggest economies are descending on Tuscany for Monday G7 Summit. Syria's war expected to dominate the agenda. We'll have a report.

Plus, the mood is festive in the North Korean capital but nuclear tensions are rising. Ahead, you'll hear from the CNN journalist, the only American TV correspondent in Pyongyang.


[00:30:40] ALLEN: And welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. We're glad you're watching, I'm Natalie Allen, and here are our top stories.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for two deadly bombings at Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. The blast killed at least 47 people on Palm Sunday, the start of Easter Holy Week. They first hit a church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta. The second struck outside in Alexandria Cathedral where the Coptic Pope had just given a sermon.

A second suspect is in custody in connection with Friday's deadly truck attack in Sweden. Four people were killed, dozens wounded when the vehicle ploughed through a busy street in the nation's capital. Police say the first suspect had known sympathy to extremist groups including ISIS.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Russia this week as tensions escalate over Syria. Tillerson says Moscow had at least been incompetent in ensuring that Syria destroyed its chemical weapons. But Russia denies that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical attack last week.

Tillerson had arrived in Italy now for the G7 Summit. He will meet this Monday with six of his counterparts from around the world to discuss Syria and Russia's role in last week's attack. But when it comes to that topic, top U.S. officials are sending mixed messages.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not seeing any hard evidence that connects the Russians directly to the planning or execution of this particular chemical weapons attack. And indeed that's why we've been trying to be very clear that the Russians were never targeted in this strike.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: They now have to answer for this. How can they with a straight face cover for Assad, because if they're covering for Assad, then what are they really saying? They're saying by covering for Assad that they knew that it was there, or they were incompetent by having chemical weapons there in the first place.


ALLEN: Officials hope the U.S. will make its position more clear at the G7 Summit.

CNN's Nic Robertson will be covering up for us.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it certainly seems that Syria is going to take up more of the talking time here than was expected. You have Rex Tillerson from the United States, the British, the French, the German, the Italian, the Japanese and the Canadian foreign ministers all here.

What we've heard from Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, said he's cancelled a Monday trip to Moscow. He wants to work with the foreign ministers here to come up with a collective position on Syria to help strengthen Rex Tillerson's position, the U.S. secretary of state, when he goes on to Moscow later in the week.

What they want to be able to do is to get him direction on their thinking. They want not just to see this military strike but they want for the United States and the G-7 at large to engage in a political process to bring an end to the war in Syria. So that's one side of it.

But if you just rewind about a week or so, 10 days ago, Rex Tillerson was visiting the NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. He was delivering a very short, blunt message that they needed to up their spending there. But there were questions at that time, what was the U.S. position on Bashar al Assad, because it appeared 10 days ago that U.S. position was focused on ISIS. Assad was a secondary issue. Clearly, in the space of 10 days that position has changed significantly with the chemical strike, with the U.S. strike in response to that.

But now you have the foreign ministers here, who are going to want to find out from Tillerson what is the U.S. position. What is that position on Assad? It concerns potentially about the apparent daylight between Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, her position and Rex Tillerson's position. So there's going to be a lot of drilling down from the foreign ministers to get to grips with what is the U.S. position and how they are going to tackle Assad and ISIS in Syria.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Luca, Italy.


ALLEN: The White House is just dissing any talks of staff shake-ups but President Trump has a blunt message for his feuding top advisers, work it out.

His chief strategist Steve Bannon is known for pushing a nationalist agenda, while Mr. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is viewed as more global minded. The two had a face-to-face meeting, Friday.

Bannon was removed from the National Security Council last week, but national security adviser H.R. McMaster downplays the move.


[00:35:00] H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, this is not as significant as it appears, I think. But I think what the president was making clear that he is going -- in terms of permanent membership on National Security Council -- have those permanent members who are there for every meeting, every official meeting of the National Security Council, to be those who will give him their advice on the long-term interests of the American people.


ALLEN: Anti-ISIS coalition troops and allied Syrian opposition forces have fought off an attack by ISIS on a joint base in Southern Syria. The U.S.-led coalition says the group carried out a complex attack on the Syrian-Jordanian border against the vehicle rigged with an explosive device of 20 to 30 suicide bombers.

Initial reports indicate there were no coalition casualties.

CNN reporter Ryan Browne explains why the location of this attack was unexpected.


RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This was an intense battle, as you said, involving multiple suicide bombers, this vehicle-borne IED. The U.S. had to call in airstrikes against this ISIS assault in order to help repel it.

That this base, you know, it's not really where a lot of the attention and the ISIS fight has been in recent months. In fact, most of that fighting has occurred further north where U.S. Arab and Kurdish allies are making a push on Raqqa, ISIS's self-declared capitol, backed by U.S. troops. So this has kind of been along the Jordan border towards the south, a little bit out of the way of the main fighting. So a little bit of the surprise, this attack by ISIS, but the coalition and its local allies were able to fight it off successfully in this case.


ALLEN: Well, coming up here. North Korea flexes its military might to the world. It looks quite differently if you look around the capitol these days. What's going on inside the country? We have a reporter there and that's next.


ALLEN: As we reported earlier, the U.S. is redeploying a carrier-led strike group to the Korean Peninsula. The show of force comes as concerns grow over North Korea's advancing weapons program.

Tensions are high but on the streets of Pyongyang, there's a completely different mood.

Our Will Ripley is the only American TV correspondent in the North Korean capital. He sent us this report.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRSEPONDENT: This is my eleventh trip to North Korea and I have to say this has probably the most tense it has been in my time visiting this country over the last few years, at least when you're talking to government officials. They're watching very closely the actions of the Trump administration. They are aware of the missile strike in Syria. They have strongly condemned it. They call it a bloody example that North Korea must learn from. The say the key difference is that if the U.S. launched a similar strike here, they promise that they would retaliate, potentially putting tens of millions of people in South Korea in harm's way because North Korea has a sizable arsenal pointed right at the city of Seoul, the South Korean capitol. There are also 28,000 U.S. troops there.

Inside North Korea, though, when you're not talking to government officials, the mood is completely different. There's a festive atmosphere on the streets of the capitol this week, as we experienced firsthand.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The Pyongyang Marathon, one of the rare days that foreigners are free to run through the streets of North Korea without constant government supervision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably the best way to check out a country that's probably one of the least understood country in the world.

RIPLEY: They run alongside North Koreans, like this university student.

"It was great," he says. "I'm so happy so many foreigners came. We all ran together."


RIPLEY: A friendly competition in front curious crowds cheering for people from places they'll likely never see.

ANDREAS ABRAHAMSSON, SWEDISH RUNNER: It's completely shut out to the outside world.

HANNAH PERROU, SWEDISH RUNNER: I feel like I'll leave with so many questions. What's real, what's not real? It's such a surreal experience.

RIPLEY: North Koreans are told they live in a Socialist oasis, safe from the turmoil of the outside world, a world they're kept far away from.

(on camera): So you're here on your honeymoon?


RIPLEY (voice-over): This newlywed from Chicago says she's surprised this closed society is giving visitors such a warm welcome.

WONG: It's brings you down to, you know, the fact that we're all humans and the people in this city are very warm and they can be just like us.

RIPLEY (on camera): Of course, there's another race happening here in North Korea that's capturing the world's attention in a different way. It's the race to develop nuclear weapons. And analysts say Pyongyang is moving closer to the finish line every day.

(voice-over): These women say they are not preoccupied with the nuclear arms race. They're more excited about North Korea's biggest holiday week of the year, the celebrations honoring the nation's late supreme leaders.

(on camera): Do you ever think or worry about the rising tension between North Korea and the U.S.?

"I'm not worried at all," said this housewife. "We have a strong leader. We have Marshall Kim Jong-Un."

Their government tells them the U.S. is responsible for North Korea's economic hardship and isolation.

"I hope more foreigners will come here," says this student, "so they can learn about our Juche philosophy."

Runners pass the Juche Tower, a symbol of self-reliance and self- development.

North Korea intends to win its nuclear arms race, with or without the acceptance of the outside world.

(on camera): Lots of major developments happening. We know that the U.S. carrier strike group "Carl Vinson" is headed towards the Korean peninsula. The North Koreans say they are monitoring that strike group's activities.

Tomorrow here in Pyongyang, the Supreme Peoples' Assembly, a political gathering where delegates will vote in favor of whatever North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, puts before them.

And then on Saturday, North Korea's most important holiday, the Day of the Sun. It is around this particular holiday that this country has a track record of military demonstrations, shows of force to project power both domestically here in North Korea and also around the world. You combine that with the fact that joint military exercises with South Korea are kicking off this week and satellite imagery shows North Korea may be ready to conduct their sixth nuclear test at any moment. So much of the world watching the activities in this country very closely and great concern.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


ALLEN: Highlights from the final of The Masters. That's next on "World Sport."