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North Korean Missile Test Fails, Pence Arrives in Seoul; National Security Adviser Arrives in Afghanistan; McMaster on NK: "All of our Options on the Table"; Senator McCain: Not Sure If U.S. Sabotaged North Korea Launch; Pope Condemns "Vile" Attack On Syrians In Easter Sermon; Trumps Host Annual Easter Egg Roll. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 16, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:05] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Martin Savidge in for Fredricka Whitfield who's off this weekend.
It's Easter Sunday and Christians around the world are celebrating. Pope Francis presided over Easter mass this morning at the Vatican where he asked for prayers for war-torn parts of the world particularly Syria.
(BEING VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria. Pray to a war that continues to sew horror and death. And yesterday, the latest despicable attack on refugees which caused a number of deaths and injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: This morning President Trump attended Easter service in Palm Beach, Florida with his daughter Tiffany, son Barron, and First Lady Melania and her parents.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is in South Korea where the second family celebrated Easter with U.S. and South Korean troops. Pence delivering a message of unity just hours after North Korea's latest provocation fell flat.
One day after staging an elaborate military parade, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un attempted to launch another missile but it fizzled out seconds later. And U.S. national security adviser lieutenant general H.R. McMaster is in Kabul, Afghanistan days after the U.S. dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb and ISIS positions there.
It all means there's lots to discuss here and we've got team coverage CNN's correspondent Jessica Schneider is in West Palm Beach, Florida. And CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh is in Erbil, Iraq.
Let's start state side. Jessica, first to you. President Trump's top security advisor, H.R. McMaster responded to North Korea's failed missile launch just hours after it occurred. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: All options are on the table undergoing refinement and further development.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how close do you think North Korea is to having a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States?
MCMASTER: Well, you know, estimates in these sorts of things vary widely. What is clear is as long as their behavior continues, as long as they continue missile development, even though this was a failed missile, they get better. And they learn lessons. And so what's critical is for them to stop this destabilizing behavior, stop the development of these weapons, and denuclearize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Jessica, it looks like the U.S. is not taking military action off the table, but the preference obviously would be to resolve this non-militarily, right?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martin, you heard it right there from General McMaster putting a very simply saying that all options are on the table saying that President Trump has made it quite clear that the U.S. and its allies and partners in Asia will not accept this continued threat from a hostile regime.
So in that vein, the National Security Council is working alongside the Pentagon, the State Department as well as the intelligence communities to really draft up plans, determine what the options are. But despite that, General McMaster did stress that they want to handle this peacefully. That any plan will be to handle this peacefully, that will be the ideal to really stop short of any armed conflict here.
National Security Advisor McMaster also talked about Kim Jong-un and the fact that rogue leader has really put the whole world on edge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the big concerns here, General McMaster, is how North Korea would respond to aggressive action or some sort of preemptive strike. How do you think they would respond?
MCMASTER: Well, that's what's particularly difficult about dealing with this regime is that it is unpredictable. This is someone who has demonstrated his brutality by murdering his own brother, by murdering others and his family. By imprisoning large numbers of people in horrible conditions for no reason, for political reasons.
And so this regime has given the world reason for concern. And that includes the Chinese people and the Chinese leadership as well. What Kim Jong-un is doing is a threat to all people.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: And General McMaster speaking out there just hours after that failed missile launch by North Korea. Of course the president is vacationing down here for the Easter weekend. Keeping an eye on the situation in North Korea. He's down here with his family, his daughter Tiffany, as well as First Lady Melania Trump and Barron, also his son Don, Jr.
President Trump hasn't been vocal but he has been tweeting this morning, Martin, bout referencing military options and the military itself saying that the U.S. will continue to build its military and to be strong and then putting it at the end of one of his tweets, Martin, saying frankly, we have no choice. Possibly a reference there to North Korea. Martin.
SAVIDGE: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.
Now, let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
Nick, President Trump's top security adviser met with the president of Afghanistan today to talk about a whole host of security issues including the war on terror. What more are you hearing about their conversations?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all part of what was referred to as a full review in the words of General McMaster of U.S. policy options in Afghanistan.
Now, you have to bear in mind new ideas are pretty few and far between, frankly. We saw one, the use of what's known as the mother of all bombs, MOAB, against an ISIS tunnel network in the hills of eastern Afghanistan in the last week.
But in terms of troop surge, it's being tried, negotiation for Taliban, that's being tried. They currently appear in the White House to be happy Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan presidency, consider him a reliable partner. And here you saw General McMaster characterize how vital the fight in Afghanistan is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCMASTER: What's clear here in Afghanistan is the stakes are high. This is really the modern day frontier between barbarism and civilization. And so with those high stakes in mind recognizing that the Taliban groups that we're fighting here, that the ISIS groups that we alongside really the Afghan forces are really fighting and we're just enabling them in the eastern part of the country are a threat to all civilized people.
And so the president has asked for a range of options and we'll give him those options and we'll be prepared to execute whatever decision he makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PATON WALSH: This is still America's longest war since the civil war some count. And 16 years of combat, there hasn't really put the Taliban decisively on its back. They've seen a surge, go over 100,000 troops, they brought it down again under the Barack Obama's timetable for success there. So possibly the options ahead of Donald Trump as commander in chief are more American trainer to try and boost the Afghan security forces, more air power as well, maybe more special forces.
But the threats are multiplying the Taliban has never controlled so much territory since 2001. Over half is either under their control or contested by them. Now ISIS on their front foot or maybe less so after that massive airstrike against them.
So the options are pretty slight. The Afghan security forces are experiencing record casualties. In one year, they lose as many men, die in combat as the U.S. lost in its entire war.
So the situation there has never been so powerless. It's perennial problem frankly now for three presidents in a row. The question is, does Donald Trump have any new ideas to turnaround this situation at its worst since the U.S. invaded in 2001? Martin.
SAVIDGE: Nick Paton Walsh with a lot for us to think about there. Thank you very much.
Let's move on now to the Korean peninsula itself. CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is the only network correspondent that's traveling with the vice president in Seoul.
Dana, where was the vice president when he was notified of the failed missile launch?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Vice President Mike Pence was on his plane, on Air Force Two on his way here to South Korea when he got word about North Korea's failed missile test. It was actually within an hour of taking off after refueling in Alaska that he was told his advisers came back and told those of us reporters on his plane that it failed within four or five seconds of the attempt. And that's why they made clear that they were not going to make a big deal out of it. That their response was going to be very much to downplay it. And that's certainly what we saw from the vice president himself. His first remarks here on the ground in South Korea was in and around having Easter dinner with U.S. troops and he talked vaguely about what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And that's a far cry from the really tough talk we have seen and heard from the president. President Trump both in his words before cameras and on Twitter over the past week or so being very aggressive vis-a-vis North Korea.
But the vice president and his aides are making very clear that they don't think that that is appropriate for several reasons. One is they don't want to give the North Koreans the satisfaction of reacting or maybe over reacting, particularly because this was a failed test and kind of an embarrassment for the North Korean regime, but also because they understood making their way here.
For the vice president of the United States to be on the Korean peninsula at this tense time. And also a day after North Korea's biggest holiday of the year where they like to show their military might, according to an aide traveling with the vice president, this was not a matter of if but a matter of when and had there been a nuclear missile test and not something that clearly was not of that ilk the U.S. reaction and action could be quite different. Dana Bas, CNN Seoul, South Korea.
SAVIDGE: Thanks, Dana, very much. She's traveling with the vice president.
Coming up, the view from inside Pyongyang and how the U.S. should respond to the latest test. That's next.
SAVIDGE: We're learning more about North Korea's failed missile test. U.S. officials are saying the missile blew up almost immediately after it left its launch pad. The test came shortly before Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea. CNN's Will Ripley is in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and has more.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Most North Koreans will never know about Sunday's failed missile launch. That missile test fire from the eastern coastal city of Sinpo. Home to a North Korean submarine base and the same location where Kim Jung-un tried to launch a missile just last week. Ahead of President Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
North Korea's supreme leader showed force over the weekend at the nation's Day of the Sun military parade. We saw a variety of new missiles that were on display including what analysts say are two new kinds of potential intercontinental ballistic missiles that could eventually carry a nuclear warhead towards the mainland United States which we know is the goal of North Korea's leader. They want these weapons of mass destruction for self-preservation to protect their national sovereignty from what they view as the imminent threat of attack and invasion by the United States and its allies.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was in the region. He spoke with U.S. troops for Easter Sunday Service. Briefly talking about the North Korean situation but not indicating that there will be any kind of specific U.S. response to this failed launch.
U.S. officials saying that why would they invest resources talking about a failed launch. However, if there is something more provocative such as a sixth nuclear test, which analysts believe could happen anytime in North Korea, that may force the United States to take some kind of action.
So there still is the potential for the situation to escalate. The question here timing. Will North Korea try to launch missiles while the U.S. Vice president is in the region? Or they wait until the 25th of April, a major military anniversary here in North Korea or maybe it'll be neither one of those days. That is the thing with North Korea when it comes to these times of provocative acts. It's not a matter of if, but when. Will Ripley CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
SAVIDGE: Will Ripley, thanks very much.
All right. Let's talk more about this with former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson. He joins me on the telephone. He's also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He's been a negotiator on a number of diplomatic issues with North Korea and he's been to the country at least eight times.
So welcome to you, governor. Thank you very much for joining us.
Let me start by asking first and foremost, how deep do you see the crisis right now between the U.S. and North Korea? We've gone through this many times in the past, but it's different with a new president. So, how serious do you see this situation?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: Well, it's very serious, but it has deescalated with the failed missile launch. I think it's kind of a blessing in disguise. It's a setback for Kim Jong-un internationally. Domestically, he can control the message. I think the U.S. has to be very careful, very vigilant. Should keep its powder drive. Our policy should be restrained. We should reassess what we're doing in the peninsula, but at the same time I think this is kind of a blessing in disguise. It was not a nuclear test. It was a potentially missile test. It failed.
The danger, though, is that they are developing more long range missiles. I noted one in the parade. But I think the correct U.S. policy is give China a chance to put real pressure on North Korea. Perhaps with oil export bans, with coal export bans. Tighten the sanctions. See what that does. But with Kim Jong-un, he's very unpredictable. He could launch a missile. He could launch a nuclear test at any time. You never know what he's going to do next.
SAVIDGE: Well, let me ask you this, ambassador. When you say give China a chance, we have given China chances many, many times. This is not the first time we felt that China should do something. Yet here we are again still asking for China to do something. What makes you feel that this time they really are committed or that somehow the U.S. has a deal with China to try to resolve this?
RICHARDSON: Well, there's a new dimension with China. You are right, China has not helped us in the past. They like the instability that is caused by North Korea's actions for the United States. There are rivals in the region.
But I think China has lost its patience with North Korea. I think this intensive ballistic missile nuclear test has unnerved them and possibly they've been offered an incentive by the administration. They're not going to be labeled occurrence currency manipulators. Maybe some trade benefits. Maybe China sees a benefit to tightening the screws on North Korea. That doesn't mean North Korea will change their policy. But it will be a new dimension.
And I think China is incentivized to do something. Let's give them a little time. Let's not build all our hopes on that. But I think we need to develop a diplomatic initiative, an engagement that involves eventually a deal with North Korea. They stop their missile test in exchange for food, fuel, some kind of diplomatic initiative longer range. But also let's take care of South Korea.
South Korea doesn't want a military strike, a preemptive strike. But they do want the THAAD missile, the ballistic missile. We should continue developing that.
But this is a chance, I think, for the vice president to reassure our allies, Japan and South Korea that we're behind them.
SAVIDGE: The president, and I'm talking about President Trump, has given -- delivered very tough talk, so are the members of his administration saying that the nuclear -- sorry, the military option is not off the table here. Not the sort of talk we've grown accustomed to.
So, is this tougher stance, do you believe in the minds of the North Koreans good at detouring them? Will it be effective or could it actually -- I don't know, prompt them to do something rash?
RICHARDSON: Well, with the North Koreans, you don't know what Kim Jong-un is going to do. He might be provoked. But obviously I think this failed missile test is a blessing in disguise for him because he's going to have to reassess. Does he want to be in the throes of a potential American preemptive strike? I don't think so.
I think deep down I've dealt with the North Koreans. They've got realistic people in the security services in the foreign ministry that'll hopefully restrain them. But you never know what he's going to do. I think it makes sense for Kim Jong-un maybe to explore with the U.S. a good will gesture. The release of Otto Warmbier, an American detained in North Korea, pave the way for a future dialogue with the United States with South Korea, with China.
I think this is an unusual opportunity for him.
SAVIDGE: Do you think that Un is different from his father and grandfather?
RICHARDSON: Yes. Yes. He's different. He's totally unpredictable. With the father you could eventually make a deal, a bargaining chip. He take an American prisoner or he'd provoke the United States with missile tests. In a change, he would take a deal where he would get food and energy assistance. You could work something out with him for the release of an American prisoner.
With Kim Jong-un, you don't know what he's going to do. He doesn't talk to foreign leaders. He seems isolated. He's worried about his own internal stature within the country. He purges members of his inner circle. Nobody seems to know what he's up to, what he wants to do. Possibly except the Chinese. But I think the Chinese need to get in there and talk to him and pressure him and talk to him about engagement. I think they're our best chance right now, but don't count on it.
SAVIDGE: We'll have to see. Former ambassador Richardson, thank you very much. Always a pleasure to speak with you, sir.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
SAVIDGE: Coming up, Trump's national security adviser says, as you heard, all options are on the table in regard to North Korea. But what exactly does that mean?
SAVIDGE: Top U.S. leaders reacting with tough words today after North Korea's attempted missile launch. A day after North Korea paraded a bevy of view missiles in a show of military might. It attempted a missile launch yesterday, but that failed and it fizzled shortly after takeoff.
Vice President Mike Pence and the president's national security advisor calling the launch a provocation and vowing that the U.S. is keeping all options on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world. Your willingness to step forward to serve, to stand firm without fear inspires our nation and inspires the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the military options still on the table?
MCMASTER: All options are on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: It's worth reminding everyone that we have in U.S. forces about 28,000 that are serving in South Korea at this very moment.
Let's discuss with our panel and joining me now is CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott; Peter Beinart, a CNN political commentator and a contributing editor for "The Atlantic"; Doug Brinkley, CNN presidential historian; and Colonel Cedric Leighton, CNN military analyst and a retired -- Air Force Colonel, that's Leighton, sorry, sir.
Colonel, let me start with you. National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, as you just heard, has said that all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea. That would include, I presume, economic, diplomatic and military.
It is hard to imagine a military option as much as we say in the line's almost cliche, all options still on the table. Is there really a military option?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Martin, there is a series of military options, but all of them are really unpalatable. I mean, every time you look at this, you have a very difficult set of targets which is what this really boils down to.
So in the case of North Korea, anytime you do, anything you can expect at least one reaction, it'll probably get multiple reactions. Every time there is something that comes up like a nuclear test of this type, you can guarantee or I should say missile test of this type, you can guarantee that they are going to do something in the response to what we respond with.
So you have to look at all kinds of ways of coercing them to do behavior that frankly is something that we want them to do and not necessary what they want to do. And that becomes really difficult. But you always have to tell them that there's some kind of a military option on the table because that then gives them at least the idea that there could be something that targets their leadership, their industry, their other military forces, and that keeps them guessing.
So that's why it's very important to still put that out there.
SAVIDGE: But the problem is if you keep saying it and you don't do it, it really becomes want a threat or it's not believed. And if the intent is to try to have them act in a certain way they don't believe it's not going to work.
LEIGHTON: That's true. You have to be very careful. So what I always favor in these case system a combination of different methods. Not just the military approach, but also increased sanctions, increased economic pressure.
But as we have seen in the past, that stuff really not only doesn't work in a very quick way, sometimes it becomes very difficult to implement because you have partners out there, in this case I'm talking about China specifically, that may or may not act with your interest in mind. So it is a very difficult series of questions that you have to deal with.
SAVIDGE: All right, let me broaden the conversation here. That North Korean missile launch failed shortly after it was launched, put into the air, the pre-boost phase as they would say. There has been some speculation that the U.S. may have been able to in some way sabotage that launch using electronic warfare techniques. Here's Senator John McCain this morning being asked about that very thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you buy the sabotage thing? I think our program is pretty good enough to do things like that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't think so, but I wouldn't rule it out. But at the same time, they have made steady progress while we have made agreement after agreement after agreement. Chuck, how many times on this show have they said now we have a comprehensive agreement with North Korea? And so I'm not blaming Trump for this. I'm blaming Republican and Democrat presidents over the last 20 years while they've continued to make progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Elise, let me put this one to you. Is it possible that the U.S. may have been able to sabotage the missile launch?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's very possible. It's probably not probable, but you've seen what the U.S. was able to do with the Iranian nuclear program and the stock net worm that they invented to use against the Iranian program.
This morning, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser was asked this question and she kind of dodged the question and pointed in the North Korean cyber activity such as the Sony hack and thus for -- it's very possible the U.S. has been increasing its cyber capabilities, cyber command.
But it's also possible that the Chinese could have been involved. You know, they could have -- a lot of China supplies North Korea with a lot of its technology and they could have tampered with it before they sent it to them.
But you know, I think we need to not be very complacent about the fact that the missile did not work because as U.S. officials and commanders and experts have said, every time North Korea tests a weapon, it gets closer to perfecting it.
So the fact that this missile didn't go off today I think doesn't -- you know, it's kind of crowd pleasing in the sense that everybody can say oh, it failed. But I don't think it should give anyone any comfort that the missile failed because there is a, you know, point in time where it won't fail.
That's really the kind of worst case scenario. And as the colonel said, there are military options that the U.S. can do both in terms of some kind of retaliatory action, but in terms of a preemptive strike on the launch pads or, you know, we have -- they use the mother of all bombs last week in Afghanistan.
There's also what they call the mop. This penetrating bomb that goes into a bunker and could either, you know, explode that way. There are other types of electronic devices that could explode.
But I think the consequences of the North Korean's launching some kind of conventional attack against South Korea are so great that that's why even though General McMaster said that all options are on the table, he emphasized that the U.S. really does not want to go that route.
SAVIDGE: Right. It would be just too catastrophic. Peter, what about Senator McCain blaming previous administrations for making these agreements with North Korea that they continue to break. Are we at the point where diplomacy and sanctions just really are no longer options when it comes to dealing with North Korea?
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What is Senator McCain's alternative? I think any realistic analysis suggests that the consequence of military action would be extremely dangerous. North Korea is a horrific regime, but their reasons for wanting nuclear weapons are pretty rational.
What they have seen is that the United States tends to go in and topple adversaries that don't have nuclear weapons and if you want to prevent an American attack, the best thing to do is to develop a nuclear weapon.
So from their point of view is horrific is that regime is, they're acting quite rationally. The idea that we are even having a serious conversation about preventative, not a preemptive military strike. Preemptive is when a country is about to attack you. Preventative is when they're just building a weapon.
[14:35:00]To my mind an avocation of America's best traditions. During the cold war when the Soviet Union got a nuclear weapon, when Mao's China got a nuclear weapons, during the Cuban missile crisis, we did not take preventative military action partly because we thought it was fundamentally un-American as well as deeply dangerous.
And what we kind of have a leery have this conversation that suggest that we have the right to do that today, I think it would be practically disastrous and even worse for America's reputation in the world.
SAVIDGE: Doug, you know, as we're sort of talking about events of history, is this North Korea situation, and I don't want to make too much of it, but it similar to President Kennedy's Cuban missile crisis? Can we learn from that moment?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, certainly we can on the fact that John F. Kennedy didn't go in and just bomb the launch sites there. That diplomacy and tradeoffs ended up working on with the Soviet Union largely with Bobby Kennedy's intervention.
What's important about the event of the failed missile here, first off is that missile did not have intercontinental capabilities. That mean its buys the United States a little bit of time. But what I'm worried about is January of 2016 when they tested their fourth nuclear test in North Korea that was a wakeup call.
Not three, but now number four, and they claim they can miniaturize nuclear weapons. And so I think it's a question of how sophisticated is there system? What do we think they'd have the nuclear capability to have an intercontinental delivery system? And I disagree firmly with Vice President Pence that all of our options are on the table because the Trump administration gutted the Transatlantic Trade Partnership when they got in and that was a -- that deflated the entire -- our allies, South Korea, Philippines, Japan, on and on.
Now we're going it alone that we're threatening a kind of brinksmanship and we'll jump over the line as sort of policy. The free trade agreement maybe should be put back on the table as an option that America is here to stay economically also as a power house in the Pacific basin.
SAVIDGE: I mean, are you implying that somehow we've dissed these Asian nations that and we're not supporting them anymore?
BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean, we're going to South Korea sending Vice President Pence to say hey, we're on your side, we're defending you, we're here, but the administration threw out the tarp. It just shouldn't have been done. That should have been on the table with China. The day that Pence and Trump did away with --
SAVIDGE: Hold on. Let me stop you for a minute. I want to get a few more topics in. Elise, let's talk about China. The president of China and the president of U.S. had a meeting. Is it possible during that meeting they worked out some kind of strategy when dealing with North Korea and it seems that maybe the U.S. wouldn't say certain things about China and China would do certain things about North Korea? Is it possible something was worked out?
LABOTT: I don't think it was that transactional at this point. I think what President Trump is doing, my understanding is when they've been doing this review of the North Korean problem and going back over the negotiations over the few years, President Trump was really struck by the idea that you never really had maximum leverage and the idea that China holds, like, you know, about 85 percent of North Korean trade.
That really I think what you've seen from his comments and from what he's been doing in this meeting with President Xi at Mar-a-Lago that they really see China as the linchpin in this pressure upon North Korea.
That's why President Trump -- I mean, I don't know if he has his full strategy right now in terms of how he wants to deal with China. Clearly he's backing off the idea that China is a currency manipulator. He tweeted why would I do that when they're going to help me with North Korea?
I think he's thinking if he could use a carrot and stick relationship with President Xi, give him a better deal on trade concessions that China is going to come along. That remains to be seen who's playing who here in terms of China.
It is very clear that he sees and this administration sees China as the real linchpin to North Korea and they don't see any point in talking with North Korea and trying to, you know, get some effort to denuclearize without full Chinese pressure.
That can mean a carrot such the trade deal. That can also mean a stick such as secondary sanctions on Chinese companies and Chinese banks that do business with North Korea. But China really the key here -- Marty.
SAVIDGE: Well, we'll see. I'm sorry, we're out of time. We'll have you all back again. Elise Labott, Peter Beinart, Douglas Brinkley, and Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you very much for joining us.
Still to come, it is Easter Sunday. The pope taking a somber tone in his Easter mass tackling conflicts around the world. His message to the faithful is coming up next.
SAVIDGE: We'll start off this next segment with a warning because it may contain some video that you find harsh to see. I'll give you a few seconds if you wish to leave the room. We are getting new video that is coming from Syria. Again, I want to warn you that some of the images you are about to see may be hard to watch.
SAVIDGE: The source of these pictures is the pro-regime Syrian news center and it claims to show the moment that a car bomb exploded in a suburb of Aleppo targeting buses filled with evacuees. The death toll from that attack has now reached 126. It is reported that at least 68 of the victims were children.
And this morning, Pope Francis condemned that brutal attack in his traditional Easter mass. He also called for an end to the horror and death of civilians in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:45:07] POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Especially in these days may He sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria. Pray to a war that continues to sew horror and death, and yesterday the latest despicable attack on refugees which caused a number of deaths and injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Father Edward Beck is joining me now. Father, happy Easter. Thank you for joining us.
FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Happy Easter.
SAVIDGE: What do you make of the pope's tone here? He's been talking on this top for some time now, but of course, it's especially important on this day. BECK: It was a prelude to it with the homily, he went totally off script. Never for such a solemn occasion has this pope set aside the whole text and he spoke from his heart. He said that yesterday, Holy Saturday, he called a young engineer who was seriously ill, who had written to him and he's saying I don't know why you're sick, I don't know why this is happening to you, but I believe you're not alone.
And then the pope said look at Jesus on the cross, and the young engineer said yes, but god asked Jesus and Jesus said yes. I didn't say yes, and the pope was kind of stymied. He said you're right, I can't explain why these things happen in the world.
He went on to talk about all of these hot button places in the glow of it, particularly Syria saying we don't understand suffering, we don't understand this kind of tragedy, but his point was we don't believe it is the final word.
We say that Jesus is risen and that this will not dominate. The evil will not dominate. The darkness will not dominate. That was the focus. But he started totally as pastor going off script. I'm sure his speech writers weren't too pleased. He said you know what, even though it's Easter, I have something else I want to say today and he responds to that.
SAVIDGE: I want to play another part of Pope Francis's message where he called for a halt to the arms trade. We'll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS (through translator): May the Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: So the pope may talk about things that may be beyond our control or understanding, but he also seems to be saying to world leaders that there is something they can do.
BECK: Yes. He does not believe the solution is bombs. He believes that it's negotiation. It's talking. It's sitting down and seeing the other as yourself, our common humanity. And he's never going to say that, this is justified, a war can be justified or that kind of killing can be justified.
He's talking about Jesus who is resurrected saying I come to bring peace. Peace be with you. That's the message of the resurrection. Those are the first words out of Jesus' mouth. Do not be afraid, peace be with you.
And so I think that the pope is again as pastor saying we have these difficulties, but it's not the final word. People thought he was going to cancel Egypt after those bombings. They said well, look at the security risk. But he has said that is where I need to be in the midst of this conflict because I have to be the voice that says this is not the reality. This does not win. And so at the end of the month he's going to Egypt, despite the security risks, despite the church bombings, and he's going as a messenger of peace.
So he's going to speak against leaders who say that there's another way and it's war and bombs. This pope is saying he does not agree with that.
SAVIDGE: Well, a message of peace is certainly welcomed and needed in our world today. Father Edward Beck, nice to see you especially today.
BECK: Thanks. Happy Easter.
SAVIDGE: Thank you.
SAVIDGE: You can talk about a summit with the president of China. You can talk about the first 100 days, but tomorrow may truly be the measure of the man in the White House because President Trump and first lady will be facing what is considered to be a huge social event. I'm talking about the White House Easter egg roll. That's the subject of Jake Tapper's "State of the Cartooning."
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": Tomorrow, the President and First Lady Trump will host the Annual White House Easter egg roll.
PRESIDENT TRUMP (CARTOON CHARACTER): I think it's going to be big.
TAPPER: It will be in some ways First Lady Melania's big Washington debut.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY (CARTOON CHARACTER): It is my honor and great pleasure to stand here before you as the first lady of the United States.
TAPPER: The Trumps tend to put their unique stamp on everything, so we imagine their first Easter egg roll might be very different. The commemorative wooden eggs might be too average for Mr. Trump's style. Is it possible we'll see Faberge eggs scattered throughout the White House lawn? While President Obama had his own Easter egg roll tradition, President Trump might read from his favorite book as well.
PRESIDENT TRUMP (CARTOON CHARACTER): I wrote a book in the late '80s called "The Art of the Deal." And to this day, it's the biggest selling business book ever written. Not too many people can say that.
TAPPER: Of course, he can't have an Easter egg roll without the Easter bunny and President Trump has the perfect guy for that role. His own Press Secretary Sean Spicer played the loveable rabbit when he was an aide for George W. Bush.
So today and tomorrow let the good times, or in this case the Easter eggs roll. Happy Easter.
[14:55:00]SAVIDGE: Double that. Happy Easter. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM will start right after this short break.
SAVIDGE: Hello, everyone. Happy Easter. I'm Martin Savidge in for Fredricka Whitfield. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
Here's a quote, "This is a problem that is coming to a head." That is the message from the Trump administration after North Korea attempted to launch another missile that fizzled out seconds later. This just one day after staging an elaborate military parade in Pyongyang.
The president's team is now traveling that is internationally in search of a diplomatic solution. Vice President Mike Pence is just across the border in Seoul, South Korea celebrating Easter with U.S. and South Korean troops.