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New Evidence of Syria's Attack; President Trump's Total Reversal; U.S. On High Alert for Possible Sixth Missile Test by North Korea; A Week of Apologies; Pope's Message for Christians. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: More tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as their differences over Syria play out on the world stage.

In North Korea, new satellite imaginary, raising concerns about the possibility of another nuclear test.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. The American commander leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, tells us about the imminent assault on Raqqa.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

The U.S. claims to have evidence tying the Syrian government to last week's deadly Sarin attack in Idlib. A senior U.S. official tell CNN the U.S. intercepted communications between the Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the attack.

The official emphasized the U.S. did not know about it beforehand. They went back and reviewed the intercepts and uncovered this information after the chemical attack. Syria and Russia deny any involvement.

The U.S. and Moscow are still at odds over whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for that attack. The U.S. secretary of state says Assad needs to go, but Russia's foreign minister disagrees.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The final outcome in our view does not provide for a role for the Assad, for Assad or for the Assad family in the future governance of Syria.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If it is really necessary to fight with the Islamic and it is possible to defeat it without trying to overthrow the regime. Then by overthrowing the regime, one can not only win against the Islamic state but in fact, lose to it.

So let's be led by pragmatic and common sense and not by emotions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump is sounding very negative about relations with Russia. It's a surprising reversal from the president who used to talk up his relationship with Vladimir Putin and it's just one of a number of foreign policy shifts that Mr. Trump made on Wednesday.

Jim Acosta reports.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Still touting his decision to call in missile strikes in Syria, President Trump made his feelings clear about Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a butcher. That's a butcher. So I felt we had to do something about it. I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing.


ACOSTA: Standing with the NATO secretary general, the president did offer something of a shift in his tone toward Russia.


TRUMP: Right now, we are not getting along with Russia at all; we may be in a long time low in terms of relationship with Russia.


ACOSTA: But the president stopped short of any courtesy of the man who was arguably Assad's biggest backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We are a very, very strong country. We're going to see how that all works out.


ACOSTA: That's despite the fact that U.S. officials suspect Russia has been trying to cover up Syria's use of chemical weapons. The president even acknowledged the Trump administration is investigating whether be Moscow had advanced knowledge of the chemical weapons attack that profits last week's missile strike.


TRUMP: I think it's certainly possible, I think it's probably unlikely and I know they are doing investigations in to that right now.

I would like to think that they didn't know. But certainly they could have. They were there. So, we will find out.


ACOSTA: Syria has placed the president in a tough spot when it comes to Putin.


TRUMP: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?


ACOSTA: During the campaign and transition, Mr. Trump held out hope for better relations between the U.S. and Russia. LEMON:


TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability. Because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which by the way is number one tricky.

I mean, if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created and ISIS was formed. If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That's called an asset. Not a liability.


ACOSTA: The president is defending his actions in Syria, saying they were aimed at preventing the deaths of innocent children.


TRUMP: When you see these beautiful kids that are dead in their father's arms. Or you see kids gasping for life and you know there it's over. It's over for them.


ACOSTA: But in December of 2015, then candidate Trump scoffed at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons.


TRUMP: Saddam Hussein throws a little gas and everyone goes crazy. It was a gas.


ACOSTA: Another shift for the president on Russia is Mr. Trump's sudden support for NATO, the organization that Mr. Trump once described as obsolete.


TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And that wasn't the only shift in tone for the president on this day. He told the Wall Street Journal, he no longer considers China to be currency manipulator.

[03:05:03] That is a huge 180 reversal for the president who once said he would label China a currency manipulator on day one of his administration.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And Russia has vetoed a U.N. resolution, condemning the chemical attack in Syria. It's the eighth time that Russia has rejected a resolution on Syria during the country's civil war.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. sharply criticized Moscow' vote, but Russia says the U.S., U.K. and France who all that backed the resolution, rushed to judgment.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: With its veto, Russia said no to accountability. Russia said no to cooperation with the U.N.'s independent investigation. And Russia said no to a resolution that would have helped promote peace in Syria.

Russia once again has chosen to side with Assad. Even as the rest of the world including the Arab world, overwhelmingly comes together to condemn this murderous regime.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV, RUSSIA'S DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.N. (through translator): What was being ignored and brushed aside under artificial pretext was Russia's concerns and priorities.

The main problem was that the draft resolution by the draw (Ph) he appointed the guilty party prior to an independent and objective investigation. This is an approach that incompatible with legal norms.


CHURCH: Our correspondents are following this developing story from Russia and Turkey. CNN's Paula Newton is in Moscow. And Ian Lee joins us from Istanbul. Welcome to you both.

So Paula, let's start with you, what all was achieved in these talks between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, and then of course that two hour meeting between Tillerson and President Vladimir Putin. And where do thing go from here?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they agreed to disagree. I suppose the progress though, Rosemary, is that they are actually working toward a list, a long list now, of places where they need to come together and try and see if they can seek some common ground. Of course, principally it would be Syria. It is notable that that meeting went on so long. Again, as we said

before, Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin, two men who know each other, they have a history. And it's a good one. I know as a corporate head that Rex Tillerson was given an award by the Russian government.

What does that matter in that room? I'm sure that they got to what the bottom lines. One of them for Russia I can tell you is the idea that this chemical attack was launched and the fact that the United States is emphatically saying look, we already know it was the Syrian regime, don't start anything else.

And the Russians fighting back and saying, look, why not wait for an independent investigation. But there's not going to be a referee or a piece of paper or a report that is going to quell that argument between these two countries. They are trying to actually move beyond that.

So, to agree in the first place, Rosemary, let's agree no more chemical attacks that we will respond if there is a chemical attack. But then also trying to get progress. First and foremost, some type of cooperation on trying to get to ISIS and trying to defeat ISIS and then after that, a ceasefire.

A ceasefire with that perhaps they can get to some kind of political accommodation for so many desperate parties now inside Syria.

CHURCH: All right. We'll see where it all goes from there. So Ian, I want to bring you in now for more on the investigation underway in Turkey into the chemical gas attack in Syria. And let's also look at the consequences of Russia's move to veto the U.N. resolution condemning that attack.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, that investigation would look into really who carried out that chemical weapons attack. Now, you do have the United States and Turkey saying that this was the Assad regime that launched the Sarin attack and Turkey saying it was Sarin, after taking samples from people who were affected by it and also doing autopsies.

The United States, as you pointed out earlier has saying that they have communications from the Syrians talking about these chemical weapons attack and the Russians were saying that they wanted a full investigation to determine.

So, really, what it looks like now on the ground there in Syria is that, you have the Syrian rebels who are, you know, saying that this was a chemical weapons attack. And the United States saying that if, you know, looks like they are saying if something like this happens again, we will respond in force.

But there's a lot of confusion, about what that would look like going forward. Meanwhile, the Russians are backing the Assad regime and saying that you know, even with all that is going on. He is still their man and it doesn't look like Assad is not going to go anywhere. Russia has too much at stake in Syria. CHURCH: And Paula, I do want to go back to you on that very topic.

Because the possibility here is Russia almost backing itself into a corner really with its support of Assad, especially since with more evidence coming out to pretty much support that Syria was behind this.

[03:20:06] NEWTON: Yes, the bottom line is Russia doesn't care. They will continue as Ian said to back Assad, because that is the only option that retain their influence in Syria and in the region.

Having said that, we've heard words like our support for Assad is not unconditional and yesterday, some different language saying we're not attached to one personality and that certainly leaves the door open, again, as we were saying, Rosemary, for the United States and Russia to go through that laundry list of grievances. Assad being one, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

They've decided to form tis working group. We look now more forward to Hamburg G-20 meeting in July. Donald Trump may have a bilateral there with Putin. And at that point in we'll see if they were able to get the basic tenants of the ceasefire in place whether or not they can move to some kind of political achievement, political movement in Syria, we shall see.

But that's the issue right now on the table. And they all know it is a very difficult one. With even European allies, Rosemary, saying, Russia, will have a seat at the table in terms of determining Syria's future.

CHURCH: Yes. Tough things to sort out there. Paula Newton, in Moscow, and Ian Lee in Istanbul. Thank you both for your love report. I appreciate it.

Well, a group that monitors North Korea, said a major nuclear site is, quote, "primed and ready." They say, a recent increase in activity there means another test is likely coming very soon.

Meanwhile, North Korean state media is releasing photos of leader Kim Jong-un, overseeing Special Forces operations. All of this posturing could be in seen as a challenge to the U.S. and the naval deployment it recently sent to the Korean Peninsula.

So let's turn to Alexandra Field now who is covering all of this from Seoul in South Korea. Alex, let's start with what this monitoring group is learning about the activity at that nuclear site.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, it is more evidence, they say, backing up the theory that they have been expressing for weeks now that U.S. intelligence officials have put out there that North Korea could be ready to carry out its sixth nuclear test at any time and with almost no warning.

The first indication you would have would be from seismic sensor, but this group has been closely watching the images collected by satellites which are focused on North Korea's main nuclear site and they say they are seeing new signs as recently as yesterday of activity around the administrative there, also a command center there and a north portal.

These images are being released just a few weeks after the same monitoring group, released other images that seemed to show activity at the tunnels at the site since January, really, 38 North has been saying that they have observed signs that this site was back in use after some period of dormancy.

You will remember that North Korea carried out its last nuclear test back in September of 2016, that test it seemed it was time to coincide with the country's national day. Now you've got another big holiday coming up in North Korea. The celebration of the birthday of North Korea's founder.

There's speculation certainly South Korea and from officials and analyst from the U.S. that North Korea could plan to carry out its next provocative measures, be that a nuclear test, be that missile launches time in some way to coincide with the high profile events inside that country. All eyes on those images right now, Natalie. Excuse me, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. Most definitely and of course, people are very nervous in South Korea and across the region. Talk to us about what's being said specifically in Japan.

FIELD: Yes, there are global security concerns here that are posed by North Korea and certainly of course, there tend to be regional security concerns, you actually had the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, speaking in a parliamentary session today talking about the tenseness of the security situation here right now.

And after talking about Syria saying that it's possible that North Korea could have the ability to create Sarin tipped missiles. Certainly that raises alarm bells throughout the region. The prime minister went on to adding his remarks that the Japanese and U.S. alliance continues to be strong that their efforts being made to further strengthen it.

Rosemary, we should point out, of course, that the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will make a trip out here to the region to Seoul to Tokyo, later this week. Security and the North Korean threat, and other threats posed by North Korea certainly top of the agenda.

Allies here looking for strong reassurances of the commitment from the U.S. Reassurances about the U.S.'s interest in securing this region certainly came in the form of the decision to redeploy that U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, a direct response to recent provocations from Pyongyang. Rosemary?

[03:14:58] CHURCH: Very unnerving details there. Alexandra Field, many thanks to you, joining us from Seoul in South Korea, where it is nearly 4.15 in the afternoon.

Well, still to come, the U.S. general in charge of defeating ISIS speaks exclusively to CNN about the coming battle to liberate Raqqa in Syria. Plus, police say they have a suspect in custody after an attack on the

German football club Borussia Dortmund.


KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN World Sport headlines.

Despite being targeted by a bomb attack on Tuesday, the Borussia Dortmund team took to the pitch on Wednesday in their Champions league clash.

A moving tribute before the match the song made famous by Liverpool football club, "You'll Never Walk Alone," sang in English by both sets of fans.

As for the match, it was gold's galore. Ultimately, Dortmund fell 3-2 to the hands in Monaco in their first leg match.

In what could have been the final on any given year, by Munich, hosted Real Madrid in the first leg, the home side Bayern Munich were taking an early lead as Arturo Vidal was able to get on board, Vidal would later missed a crucial penalty kick, though.

Cristiano Rinaldo would take over and he's scoring two goals to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win. He's now scored his 100th goal in European competition, the first player ever to do so.

And in the other game, Champions League quarter finals (Inaudible) Leicester City face Atletico Madrid away in Spain just before the half hour mark. Antoine Griezmann scored the penalty to put Atletico ahead.

Not bad, seeing as he has missed his previous four attempts that he has taken. One-nil it ends. The result actually seats both parties. The next leg will be on April 18th and that will be at Leicester's King Palace Stadium.

And that's a look at all of your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. Well, the U.S.-led military push to dislodge ISIS from the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa could get underway soon possibly within months.

Since 2014, the terror has lost a huge amount of territory in its so- called caliphate. Those losses are shown in green on the map. We're showing you right now.

Our Nick Paton Walsh spoke exclusively with the U.S. commander now making the final preparations to liberate Raqqa.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He commands the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and flies now over a battlefield that seems to go from impossibly complicated to worse day by day.

[03:20:03] But the next key fight for ISIS's de facto capital, Raqqa is now very close. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE COMMANDER: I certainly hope that the assault on Raqqa is underway by this summer.

WALSH: Complete by when?

TOWNSEND: Don't know. It's up to them.

WALSH: Months?

TOWNSEND: It's up to them.

WALSH: Would you be surprised if you are still fighting the fight by 2018?

TOWNSEND: In Raqqa City? Yes.

WALSH: Another long hard fight that he may need more U.S. boots on the ground for.

TOWNSEND: Right now, I think we have the resources that we need there to isolate, to do the task we are doing right now which is complete the isolation of Raqqa.

After the isolation of Raqqa will come the assault and we are still evaluating what resources we need. If I need more resources I will go to my leadership, my chain of command and tell them what we need to get the job done.

WALSH: Now, he must evaluate another possible complexity or enemy after President Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian regime backed by Russia for a chemical weapons attack in Idlib.

Has your thinking about Russian or Syrian regime involvement and Raqqa had to change since the air strikes in the past weeks or so against the Syrian regime targets by the U.S.?

TOWNSEND: Yes, I would say that probably our thinking has changed a little bit, but I'm not -- I couldn't say specifically how.

WALSH: Are you having to take in to account the possibly the Syrian regime might use Sarin against the U.S. facility or assets here?

TOWNSEND: Sure, we have to take it in to account. I'm not really concerned about that.

WALSH: Is it a risk in your mind, do you worry about it?


TOWNSEND: It's a very small -- of course, it's a possibility. So it's a risk. It's a very small risk. Let me just say on the last question, I don't think -- the Syrian regime wants to pick a fight with the United States or the global coalition against ISIS. And to, you know, if you take what you just said a step further.

That's what they are doing, they are choosing to directly fight the United States in a global coalition against ISIS and I don't think that they want to do that.


WALSH: U.S. backed rebel Syrian forces are isolating Raqqa from the north, east and west and may very soon move to isolate from the south, nearer where the Russian and regime forces are.

Yet, he said, he is, as of now, not coordinating the Raqqa push with Russia or Syria at all.


Do the regime or Russian forces have any role in your planning for the liberation of Raqqa?

TOWNSEND: Right now, we are not planning, we are not -- we don't, we are not planning or coordinating with them. They're not -- they're not even located near Raqqa.

WALSH: But they don't figure as part of your operations to liberate that city?

TOWNSEND: We think they have their hands full doing their tasks in Syria and that they are probably happy to let the Syrian democratic forces and the coalition tackle Raqqa.


CHURCH: That exclusive report from our senior international correspondent, Nick Payton Walsh.

We'll take a short break here, but still to come, German police detain a suspect after an attack on a major football club. What could have been the motive? That is next.

And a foreign policy about-face from President Trump.


TRUMP: I said it was obsolete, it's no longer obsolete.

[03:25:00] (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers all across the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on the main stories we are following this hour.

The U.S. claims to have evidence linking Syria's government to last week's Sarin attack in Idlib. A senior U.S. official tells CNN the U.S. intercepted communications between the Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparation for that chemical attack. Russia and Syria both deny any involvement. The top diplomats from the U.S. and Russia are trying to work through

their differences over Syria, but they are not finding much common ground.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, but Tillerson says relations with Russia are at a low point.

A group that monitors North Korea says one of its major nuclear sites is, quote, "primed and ready." A report from 38 North, included these satellite images, which the group said, shows an uptick in activity at that facility. A weapons test could be seen as a response to the recent U.S. naval deployment near the Korean Peninsula.

Well, some areas of New Zealand are getting slammed right now by remnants of cyclone Cook. Heavy rains and winds up to 150 kilometers per hour have been reported.

Sky News reporter James O'Doherty joins us from Whakatane, New Zealand with more on what's happening right now. We do warn you, there's a slight delay. But James, it's dark where you are, because of course the power is out and people have been evacuated, what is the situation on the ground as we speak now and just how bad is this expected to be?

JAMES O'DOHERTY, SKY NEWS REPORTER: Well, as you mentioned, Rosemary, power is out in Whakatane. It was cut pretty much as soon as remnants of the cyclone Cook crossed land in New Zealand. Now it crossed land between Thames and Coromandel districts and the Bay of Plenty district, I should say.

A little bit earlier this evening, we are talking about an hour ago, an hour before now. The power was cut here in Whakatane, places like Tauranga, another nearby city were evacuated as well.

Now we are expecting winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour as the storm moves through the Bay of Plenty region where I am in New Zealand. We are seeing winds pretty much at 140 kilometers per hour I'd say, right now. Rainfall of up to 300 millimeters before the end of Friday, which is when the storm will dissipate.

We're also likely to see rainfall of up to 60 millimeters per hour in some areas as this storm moves through. All throughout the day we have been seeing heavy rain in this region. And that's a big problem.

Because this region actually had another heavy storm system move through the area not seven days ago. That storm brought a lot of rain and flooded the nearby town of Edgecombe.

[03:29:59] Now that we have more rainfall on top of that, the authorities are worried that the ground is so sodden that it just won't cut it.

Now to put this into perspective, Rosemary, this is the largest storm that New Zealand has seen in almost 50 years. You would have to go back to 1968 and cyclone Giselle which toppled the Wahine passenger ship in the Wellington Harbor to see a storm that was worse than this. That killed 50 people.

No deaths reported in this storm so far. Authorities are hoping there aren't any when they wake up in the morning.

CHURCH: Absolutely. And we hope that's the case too. James O'Doherty, thank you so much for keeping an eye on this bad weather there across New Zealand. Many thanks.

Well, U.S. President Donald Trump left his campaign rhetoric far behind as he made several shifts in his foreign policy positions Wednesday beginning with NATO.

Mr. Trump's dim view of the organization worried allies for months. But after a meeting with the NATO secretary general, Mr. Trump reversed his opinion.


TRUMP: The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change. And now, they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.


CHURCH: Well, this was President Trump's first face to face meeting with Jens Stoltenberg. The secretary general spoke with Wolf Blitzer and offered his view of the talks.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO is adapthere when the world is changing. So, NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to change...


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: But he told you, he is not happy and it's not moving as quickly as he would like. And he is still upset about that, right?

STOLTENBERG: And I told him that welcome that he is pushing for more adaptation that NATO has to continue to change, especially when it comes to stepping up our efforts to fighting in international terrorism. We do a lot but we can do more. And also, when it comes to fair burden sharing inside the alliance. Many allies have to invest more in defense.

BLITZER: The president has repeatedly said, President Trump, that he is upset with NATO because NATO, as an organization, is not doing enough to fight terror. Did he say that to you today?

STOLTENBERG: He said that he would like NATO to do more and I totally agree with him. And NATO all that play, plays a key role in Afghanistan, and the reason why we are in Afghanistan is to fight international terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.

Then we are president in Iraq. We are scathing upon our training activities there. I strongly believe that the best way to fight terrorism is to enable the local forces to fight terrorism themselves to stabilize their own country.

We are present in the wider Middle East region helping partners like Jordan and Tunisia to stabilize the country and to fight terrorism. And then we help also with their air operations over Syria, with our defense. I believe NATO can do more and that's what we are looking into.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump's reversals aren't limited to foreign policy. He backed away from his long-time promise to label China a currency manipulator. On the campaign trail he repeatedly accused Beijing of weakening the Yuan to make Chinese goods cheaper on the global market.


TRUMP: I'm going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator. The greatest in the world.

China is a grand master. Like a grand master chess player. They are a grand master at currency manipulation. Nobody has ever manipulated currency like China.

Label China a currency manipulator. Label China, a currency manipulator. They are the greatest currency manipulators ever!


CHURCH: Well, now, just days after meeting with Chinese's President Xi Jinping, Mr. Trump said he would not declare China a currency manipulator.

The president is also praising Beijing for taking what he calls a big step toward cracking down on North Korea. Mr. Trump said that China turned away a fleet of North Korean cargo ships carrying coal exports this week.

China banned all North Korean coal imports shortly after Pyongyang tested a new intermediate range missile.

Critics have accused China of failing to enforce U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang. Regardless of what China does, Mr. Trump indicated a willingness to be more confrontational with North Korea.


TRUMP: We have a very big problem in North Korea. And as I said, I really think that China is going to try very hard and has already started a lot of the coal boats have already been turned back. You saw that yesterday and today. They've been turned back. The vast amount of coal that comes out of North Korea going to China, they have turned back the boats.

[03:35:01] That's a big step and there are many other steps that I know about. So we'll see what happens. It may be effective, it may not be effective. If it's not effective, we will be effective, I can promise you that.


CHURCH: And CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now from Beijing with more on this. So Matt, explain to us the significance of China turning away North Korean ships carrying coal. What could this signal?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what China signaled since the beginning -- excuse me, the middle of February is that it's not going to import any more North Korean coal, on February 18th, China said that it was suspending imports from North Korea in terms of coal imports for the rest of 2017.

There had been sanctions levied against North Korea by the U.N. Security Council that limited the amount of coal that countries could buy in total from North Korea during the year. And China said, it was already nearing that figure. And that it wouldn't import any more coal for the remainder of the year. Therefore, complying with the U.N. sanctions.

And so, them turning away a fleet of coal ships is really just a continuation of what they started back in February. But in terms of significance, it is significant. It shows that China is a little bit more muscular in its aversion to buying everything that North Korea exports.

And it's something that the Trump administration as you heard the president there, would look at as a very welcome step. But that said, we should also put this into a broader context. Because it was just this morning actually that Chinese customs officials released trade data for the first quarter of 2017, the first three months.

And trade, total trade volume between North Korea and China actually is up almost 40 percent year over year despite the ban on coal imports. So, China might not be buying coal, but it is buying a lot of other stuff from North Korea.

And it proves that even though the Trump administration wants it to turn those economic screws against North Korea to force it to stop the weapons development program that they are so eagerly engaged in, China is simply not willing to go as far as the Trump administration wants them to.

CHURCH: Yes. It will be interesting to see reaction from the Trump administration to those numbers. So, how much economic pressure is China really applying to North Korea given those numbers indeed, and can we expect to see Beijing increase its influence over Pyongyang?

RIVERS: Well, I mean, in terms of how much economic pressure they are applying, look, the impact of not buying North Korean coal, is a big deal. That is North Korea's, one of North Korea's most lucrative exports and China historically has been the biggest buyer of North Korean coal.

So I don't want to take away from what China is doing there and continues to do. But the numbers speak for themselves. I mean, you're talking about over a billion dollars in trade between both countries. China is continuing to supply an economic life line to the North Koreans.

And many analysts that we speak with here say that's going to continue, because in reality the Chinese don't want to see the Kim Jong-un regime collapse for a number of different strategic reasons.

They are a buffer against American troops on the Korean Peninsula base in South Korea, and furthermore, they don't want a refugee crisis on their border were the regime to collapse.

So China is willing to go to take certain steps because they don't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But they are not willing to go so far, at least the moment, to completely cut off the regime, which they do have the capability of doing. But Rosemary, the numbers speak for themselves. China is going to continue to trade with North Korea.

CHURCH: Yes. That seems clear, doesn't it? Matt Rivers, joining us live from Beijing, where it is nearly 3.40 in the afternoon. Many thanks to you.

We'll take a short break here, but still to come, Holy Week celebrations continue at the Vatican, leading up to Easter Sunday, we will have a live report from Rome, on Thursday special mass, known as the Washing of the Feet.

Plus, Malala Yousafzai brings a familiar message to a country that has just given her new honors. We will explain ahead here on CNN.


CHURCH: Police have detained a suspect in connection with an attack on German football club Borussia Dortmund. They say that suspect and another fall on the, quote, "Islamic spectrum."

Three explosions hit near a bus carrying the team on Tuesday, wounding one of the players.

I want to bring in our journalist, Chris Burns, CNN's former Berlin bureau chief. Live outside the club headquarters in the City of Dortmund. Good to talk with you, Chris. So how much more are we learning about these two suspects and of course, about the investigation as a whole?

CHRIS BURNS, FORMER CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Rosemary, authorities are not saying a whole lot at the moment about those suspects. Only that yes, they were in that sort of Islamic scene here in the area, which is quite active.

And there have been searches going on. There was a letter, three copies of the letter found near the bomb site, that was demanding that they -- that the Germans withdraw their tornado jets from the U.S.-led operation in Syria against the Islamic state.

The letter was supposedly signed by, was claimed by Islamic state, and also demanding that the U.S. close its Ramstein Air Base in western Germany and that it had said that there was a death list of German celebrities, sports and show business celebrities and from other countries as well. That is what we know so far.

The Germans are trying to authenticate that letter and that has of course put a damper on the feeling among the fans here and even the team. We saw last night that the match that was supposed to happen on the night of the match, happened last night, it was postponed one day. It went off. It went off well. But made a lot of police security.

But, Borussia Dortmund lost against as Monaco 3 to 2. And quite a bit of bitterness among the fans. Let's hear a few of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it was a special mood. It was a very special mood this night. The (Inaudible) they're incredible because of this consideration. It was a bit better than normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's difficult because of yesterday. I think that the players were a little bit at the other side by the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at the beginning it was a little bit weird here because of things that happened yesterday, but I think during the match, we were really in to the match, I must say.


BURNS: OK, so, you heard a few of them, and also, even the coach of Borussia Dortmund saying look, it was too soon. We should have had more time. The management of Borussia Dortmund saying, look, we had a tight schedule, we had to continue with this. There's a game on Saturday and they are playing again against as Monaco next week. So, a very, very tight schedule.

[03:45:01] But the Interior Administer Thomas de Maiziere was among the fans here last night saying look, if we do stop what we are doing, if we stop what our games and so forth, we're not -- we are giving in to the terrorists, we're letting them win, so we have to continue with our lives. Back to you.

CHURCH: Yes, very true, but still a very tough turn around after a particularly difficult attack there.

And Chris Burns, joining us from Dortmund in Germany, where it is 9.45 in the morning.

Canadian lawmakers repeatedly rose up and cheered on Wednesday as they gave a Nobel Peace prize winner two unique distinctions, honorary citizenship and the chance to address parliament.


today to host one of the newest and possibly bravest citizens of Canada, Malala Yousafzai.



CHURCH: And Malala Yousafzai was wounded in an attack by Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012. You would all recall that. She praised Canada, for welcoming refugees and repeated her perennial messages promoting education for girls and saying Muslims who kill in the name of Islam are not true to their faith. But the 19-year-old also had some fun.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, ACTIVIST: While I will always be a proud (Inaudible) and a proud citizen of Pakistan, I'm grateful to be an honorary member of your nation, of heroes, though, I still require a visa, that is another discussion.


CHURCH: And Malala got more laughs when she gushed over Mr. Trudeau saying he does yoga and has tattoos and a lot more.

Well, next here on CNN Newsroom, it has been a busy week filled with apologies, but who is the most sorry, the United Airlines CEO, Pepsi, or the White House's Sean Spicer. We'll take a look.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is CNN Weather Watch. I'm meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

We've two big systems that are impacting portions of the United States and Canada, first the one out to the west bringing very heavy rain from Vancouver all the way down stretching towards San Francisco.

It could cause potential delays at the some of the airports so do be considerate of that.

Also keeping an eye on this region around Texas and into Oklahoma. Nothing really major here, except that a lot of moisture plumes seem to be just kind of trailing over the same spots and that's bringing in to potential for some flooding.

Again, when you look at the water vapor, look at how most of that moisture just stays over the same spot and just continues to produce rain over and over again.

[03:50:00] Going forward, again, we expect even more rain as we go through the day Thursday. Too much of the same spots that have already seen a lot of rain. Now, when we look at the forecast rainfall amounts, again, widespread,

we're talking about two inches and there could be some areas that pick up a little bit more than that. But again, you have to remember, this is on top of what they have already had the last couple of days.

So again, the understood potential is going to be there in the short term. Chicago looking at some rain showers in the forecast. Again, we've got at least 20 percent chance of rain for at least the next several days in Chicago. So keep the umbrella handy.

High temperatures right around 14 degrees. Rain showers expected in San Francisco as well. High temperature also, around 14. And temperatures staying in the mid-20s for cities like Atlanta through the rest of the weekend.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone, well, Christians around is world celebrate Easter on Sunday. And Pope Francis continues the Holy Week ceremonies with a mass at the Vatican on Thursday morning, on Thursday night, he holds a special service known as the Lord's Supper Mass.

And CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us now with the very latest from Rome. So, Delia, this mass comes at a time when Christians have been targeted in Egypt with deadly consequences, what can we expect the pope to say about that incident, as well as the chemical gas attack in Syria and the increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, Rosemary, the pope gave an interview which was published just this morning with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, in which he said, "stop the men of war, they are destroying the world."

Amongst other things in this interview, he goes on to criticize arms traffickers, to criticize excessive military spending which he says takes away resources from those who need it most. On the specific questions of Syria and Egypt of course, he condemned those attacks immediately following them.

Talking about the unacceptable carnage in Syria, and calling on the international community to help, he said put an end to this tragedy. In Egypt, he will be going to Egypt in two weeks' time, and he will be meeting with government officials there, and with leaders of the Muslim community there.

So, we will see what he has to say when he is on that trip, Rosemary. Now the other thing that the pope talked about in this interview, which I say, was just published this morning is the situation of prisoners.

And this of course is an issue that's very close to the pope's heart, the question of inmates and conditions for prisoners and one of the reasons that he is talking about that today is because, as you mentioned this evening, when he celebrates this mass of the Lord's Supper today, being the day that Christians around the world commemorate Jesus' last supper with his apostles, one of the things that he did at that last Supper according to the bible was the feet of these apostles.

So, the Christian churches around the world priests wash the feet of 12 people. And the pope will be washing the feet of 12 prison inmates in a prison about an hour from Rome.

But it's a special kind of prison, Rosemary. Because it's a prison for informants, ex-Mafia members who have decided to collaborate with law enforcement in order to receive a reduction in their sentences.

So, the pope is going to this prison. It is a private affair. Presumably for security reasons. To keep the identities of these informants secure, so the Vatican has said there will be no cameras. But the pope will be there this evening to wash the feet of 12 prisoners. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Amazing and powerful words from the pope there, "stop the men of war." Delia Gallagher, joining us live from Rome, where it is nearly 10 in the morning. Many thanks to you.

Well, passengers who were on a United Airlines flight when a fellow customer was kicked off will be reimbursed for their tickets. Some passengers told CNN the airline called them to apologize and said they would get their money back.

Of course, United is not the only one apologizing these days. Pepsi and a White House official also had to say sorry in the past week.

What CNN's Jeanne Moos wants to know, is who means it the most.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a while, it seemed tough, dragging an apology out of United.


MOOS: But finally, the CEO said sorry.

OSCAR MUNOZ, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF UNITED AIRLINES: Probably the word ashamed comes to mind.

MOOS: You did not need a poll to gauge public opinion.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: What a week for United Airlines.


The company lost $255 million in market value in one day.


That means they could have given each of those four passengers they kicked off the plane their own jet planes.

MOOS: It's been a banner week for apologies. First, Pepsi had to pull their new commercial the one spoofed by SNL.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stopped the police from shooting black people by giving them a Pepsi. Isn't that is cute, right?

[03:55:00] MOOS: And then Sean Spicer had to admit.

SPICER: I screwed up.

MOOS: For his Hitler comments lampooned on Kimmel.

SPICER: Somebody as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to the using chemical weapons. So, you have to if you are a Russian...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, did I just defend Hitler?

MOOS: Sean Spicer versus Oscar Munoz. We present the battle of the object apologies, who groveled most?

MUNOZ: You saw it as a bad moment.

SPICER: Not a very good day in my history.

MOOS: Take it from Brenda Lee.


SPICER: This is my mistake, my bad.

MUNOZ: That's on my.

SPICER: It was my blunder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please accept my apology.

MUNOZ: This can never, will never happen again on a United Airlines flight.

SPICER: It was a mistake. I should not have done it. I won't do it again.


SPICER: I sought people's forgiveness, because I screwed up.

MUNOZ: No one should be treated that way, period.


MOOS: So who was the sorriest?

SPICER: Painful to myself to know that I did something like that.

MOOS: Sean Spicer seemed the most contrite. One internet poster put him in full apologetic regatta wearing a United uniform holding a Pepsi.

SPICER: It was insensitive and inappropriate.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos.

MUNOZ: Inexcusable and reprehensible.

MOOS: CNN, New York.

CHURCH: So many apologies. And thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter, @rosemarycnn. I want to hear from you.

The news continues with our Max Foster in London. You are watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.