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North Korea's Latest Missile Launch Fails; V.P. Pence Arriving in South Korea; Deaths from Attack on Syrian Evacuation Buses; Turkish Vote Could Change Presidential Powers. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired April 16, 2017 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
IVAN WATSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): North Korea tries to test fire another missile. But South Korean and U.S. officials say the attempt failed. This as U.S. vice president Mike Pence arrives in Seoul to visit U.S. troops and for talks with South Korean officials.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And dozens are dead this Syria after a bomb targets people being evacuated near Aleppo.
Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.
WATSON: And I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
WATSON: U.S. vice president Mike Pence has just arrived in South Korea for the first leg of his trip to Asia and Australia. His visit comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and another provocation by Pyongyang.
Just one day after the regime made a public show of military pride and strength, it tried but failed in a test firing of another land-based missile. South Korean officials say the launch attempt was made from the port city of Sinpo on the east coast.
The type of missile has not yet been identified but the U.S. military does not believe it was intercontinental. A U.S. official says the missile malfunctioned almost immediately. North Korea state media has not reported on the failure.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis issued this statement, quote, "The president and his military team are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."
We get the latest from our Will Ripley, one of the few Western journalists currently reporting in Pyongyang.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No confirmation from the North Korean government regarding this apparent failed missile launch from the eastern coastal city of Sinpo, home to North Korea's submarine base and also the site of another apparent attempted missile launch, a failure just before the meeting in Florida last week between President Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
We probably won't hear any confirmation from the Korean government on this because they don't announce failed missile launches. They announce successful launches and there have been a string of successes, really a remarkable run for North Korea and their leader, Kim Jong-un.
If you tally up the number of missiles that have been launched since the beginning of last year, more than 3 dozen, including a very spectacular and troubling launch last month, when North Korea simultaneously put up four missiles, three of which landed less than 200 nautical miles from the Japanese coast, prompting coastal residents in Japan to begin North Korean missile drills.
This is the first time they've had missile drills since World War II. So a very tense situation and only adding to the (INAUDIBLE) the arrival -- or imminent arrival -- of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson carrier strike group, expected here in the region, all designed by the Trump administration to project power and to deter North Korean leader Kim Jong-un from more provocative behavior.
But it doesn't seem to be working. After the Day of the Sun military parade when North Korea unveiled more missiles, analysts say, than any other North Korean military parade in the past, including two potential intercontinental ballistic missiles that have never been seen before, how far North Korea has actually gone in developing actual versions of those missiles since in the parade they tend to show mockups, we just don't know.
But what we do know is that North Korea has pledged to move forward, developing its nuclear program and its missile program as a deterrent against what they consider aggression from the United States -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
VANIER: Let's go to South Korea now. CNN's Alexandra Field joins us from the Yongsan military base, the headquarters of U.S. forces in the country. U.S. vice president Mike Pence is set to meet the troops there shortly.
Alex, South Koreans essentially live under the U.S. security umbrella.
So what do they want to know, what do they want to hear from Vice President Pence?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a really important trip from vice president Mike Pence who has touched down in South Korea, is going to visit the national cemetery, and then he'll be coming right here to actually meet with service members, both on the U.S. and the South Korean side. It sort of underscores the importance of this decades-long alliance,
this joint commitment to security and, frankly, to peace here on the peninsula. What they want to hear, though, is that this alliance is not only strong, not only that it holds and that it has a future ahead but that South Korea will be very much at the table when it comes to making decisions about the future and how to deal with the mounting North Korean nuclear threat.
They have certainly seen and taken notice of the statements from U.S. President Donald Trump's, the tweets that he has issued, saying that if China won't solve the North Korean problem, the U.S. would go it alone. And there are members of public here who would wonder, what does going it alone mean?
They want to understand that as going it alone with --
FIELD: -- their allies. So that's certainly something that we expect would be a topic of conversation here.
The vice president will be meeting with the acting president of South Korea to talk about what options are on the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea and, of course, the possibility that remains out there of the military option, which is something that raises a lot of concern for people here in South Korea.
But it is somewhat awkward, given the political context, what we're experiencing here in South Korea right now, which is the fact that the elected president has been ousted, impeached, is out of office. There's currently a presidential election going on.
So the acting president, who will meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who has also met with the U.S. Secretary of Defense and secretary of state, is somebody who won't even be in office just a few weeks from now -- Cyril.
VANIER: And another question for you. There have been so many missile tests recently and over the years.
Are South Koreans blase about it by now?
Or is there still an added level of alarm when this happens?
FIELD: When a missile test happens, it frankly does not change the game, it doesn't change a person's day in South Korea. People are still out; this isn't a big topic of conversation for them. It really isn't a major topic of concern because it is quite routine.
You've had five of these missile launches just this year, you had an unprecedented number, around 2 dozen, last year. So they are used to these provocations from North Korea.
But what is drawing interest right now is the way that the world will respond to this because you've taken this to a new level now. You've got the presence of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, that aircraft carrier strike group, that's moved to waters off the Korean Peninsula. According to Washington, it is a direct response to provocations from North Korea.
So there's been a lot of wondering here about what this means and if the U.S. was seriously entertaining the idea of a military option, which, again, of course, raises concern here, because these are the people who would be in direct line of retaliation, possible retaliation, from North Korea.
So these launches do raise questions for people here. But they don't seem to really spark fear in any kind of palpable sense -- Cyril.
VANIER: All right, Alex, thank you very much.
Alexandra Field reporting live from Seoul, South Korea. She'll come back to update us on the meeting between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. troops and also South Korean officials when that happens.
Thank you very much.
WATSON: All right. In the wake of North Korea's failed missile test, we're going to take a look at the recent history of the Hermit Kingdom's weapons and missile development programs.
Last June, the regime test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile called the Musudan. It flew about 400 kilometers before landing in the sea.
In August, Pyongyang had its most successful test, firing of a submarine-launched missile.
A month later, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, a blast estimated at 10 kilotons.
In February this year, Pyongyang fired a new ballistic missile, the Kn-15 that traveled some 500 kilometers.
Last month, the regime fired four ballistic missiles eastward and three of them landed within 200 nautical miles of Japan's coastline.
And on April 5th, less than two weeks ago, North Korea launched another missile that landed in the sea off its east coast.
VANIER: The U.S. president, Donald Trump, has been calling on China to act on North Korea and said this week that if it doesn't, then the U.S. will. That's what Alex was referring to in South Korea.
A U.S. aircraft carrier group arrived near the Korean Peninsula this week and China opposes the North Korean weapons program but it is urging restraint from the U.S. and others in dealing with the regime. CNN's Matt Rivers has more.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China is very consistent in the way that it responds every single time there is a missile test from North Korea, every time there is a nuclear test from North Korea. China pretty much routinely condemns it.
It says that these kinds of actions are illegal under international law and it urges the Kim Jong-un regime to stop doing these kinds of things. But it's also very much consistent in its messaging to the United States in that the kind of actions the United States military takes each year with these annual drills that it conducts with the military from South Korea, that is also a provocation in its own right.
And so the consistent message from China is that the only way that there can be lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and to scale back from this increasing tension is for both the United States and the Kim Jong-un regime to sit down and begin direct negotiations.
And China has noticed these increasing tensions. We've heard even just within the last few days from the foreign minister, Wang Yi, who was giving a press conference, who said, look, the conflict on the Korean Peninsula could break out at any moment. And both sides -- meaning the United States and North Korea -- really need to calm down, decrease the rhetoric and try and get back to the negotiating table.
So China very consistent in its positions when it comes to tests like this from North Korea. But they also are very swift to say --
RIVERS: -- the United States has a role to play in this as well -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.
WATSON: We're going to Jean Lee, she's a journalist and global fellow at The Wilson Center, and joins us now from Seoul.
Thank you for joining us, Jean. This crisis comes at a delicate time for South Korea, having just had its president impeached and jailed.
How is South Korea supposed to deal with this crisis to the north of the DMZ while also preparing for presidential elections that are scheduled in less than a month's time?
JEAN LEE, JOURNALIST: It's certainly tricky. This is a time when South Korea really wants to be able to sit at the table and be part of any North Korea policy that the Trump administration comes up with.
So having this kind of political transition and political vacuum right now is inopportune, it really is problematic for South Korea.
That said, the acting president will be sitting down with the vice president, Mike Pence, tomorrow. And they will certainly be trying to make a strong show of the alliance between South Korea and the United States.
Right now, South Koreans are much more concerned about who will be their next president. And this is a big issue, because right now the two leading candidates are liberals. And that will mean a shift in policy in the Blue House here in South Korea when it comes to North Korea policy.
So there is some concern among conservatives that this will put South Korean security at risk. But this is something that younger South Koreans are pushing for. They want a different policy when it comes to North Korea.
WATSON: And that means that there are a lot of questions up in the air, such as whether or not this THAAD anti-missile system that was just placed in South Korea, whether or not that would stay there, questions of whether the next president might embark on another sunshine policy with North Korea, at a time when the U.S. is promising to respond somehow to its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
LEE: Indeed. And that's why earlier we heard from Alex that South Koreans are perhaps a bit more preoccupied by their presidential race than the provocations from North Korea.
Frankly, they're probably busy trying to pick which presidential candidate to back, as they know that the next president will have a lot of bearing on what kind of policy South Korea develops in relation to North Korea, whether they're going to reopen this joint factory park in North Korea just across the border, which was very controversial and which the last president shut down over concerns about the money being diverted to the nuclear and ballistic missile program in North Korea.
So lots of tricky issues. And those will certainly shift -- there will be a shift in alliances and a shift in policy among South Korea, the United States and Japan when it comes to North Korea.
WATSON: What about this, when we see these ominous images of U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups steaming towards the Korean Peninsula, these massive military displays in Pyongyang, what about there on the streets of Seoul and other South Korean cities?
Are normal, ordinary South Koreans worried?
LEE: Normal, ordinary South Koreans are not worried. They're so used to this, they've been dealing with this threat for years. It's seasonal to a certain degree. Every spring, the U.S. and South Korean militaries conduct joint exercises. Every spring, North Korea is enraged and calls this a rehearsal for invasion.
That said, we've got a couple different aspects this time, a couple different factors this time around that make it particularly dangerous.
One of them is a new president in the White House. And he's an unpredictable factor in this whole equation. We know the North Koreans are going to push things to the edge; they always do.
What we don't know is how President Trump is going to respond. So that remains a very volatile factor. And so that's certainly on the minds of some of the South Koreans I've
spoken to. They say this happens every year, we're not going to be stocking up on ramen noodles. But we don't know what President Trump is going to do and that makes people nervous.
WATSON: Yes. And how would you evaluate opinion in South Korea?
Do people look to the U.S. as a source of comfort and protection?
Or are they worried about the unpredictability, certainly, of the current administration?
LEE: I have to say that I see differences in opinion along generational lines. We cannot really characterize South Korea in a monolithic way because this is a country that has been through so much change since the Korean War.
And I was here on the streets of Seoul and there were some protesters who were actually supporting Trump and U.S., the U.S., in calling for Trump to wage a preemptive strike. They were largely in their 70s. They were much older. They're people who remember the Korean War and really value the protection --
LEE: -- that the United States receives.
However, I have to say the younger generation that grew up post-war in a democratic era in South Korea, very different attitude. They feel much more emboldened and entitled to stand on their own, perhaps without U.S. protection.
So very different attitudes, I think, among the younger generation and the older generation here in South Korea. And we may see that reflected in the next presidential election coming up in a few weeks' time.
WATSON: Well, given that, I'm going to ask you to speculate a little bit. There's a lot of concern that North Korea may conduct a sixth nuclear test.
If it did in the coming weeks, do you think that could have an impact on the upcoming presidential election in South Korea?
LEE: I think it's really a matter of when North Korea conducts another nuclear test and not whether. They've made it very clear that this is a priority. I see no indication that Kim Jong-un is going to back off of this -- the pace of these tests.
And, frankly, the rhetoric and the aggressive tone in the region right now feeds his resolve to continue building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He can justify to his people that it's fine, that he needs to pour resources into defending the country. So I think it's only a matter of when we're going to see a nuclear test.
How South Korea will respond to that? It's very difficult, because all the parties here are very limited by the armistice and also by concerns about what would happen if a conflict breaks out.
So you know, after the ballistic missile test this morning, the National Security Council here in South Korea met. But there's so little that they can actually do.
Even if they say that they're going to wage punitive measures or act strongly in response, there's very little they can do, because nobody wants to have another Korean War on the Korean Peninsula.
WATSON: Nobody wants that, I think that's fair to say. Jean Lee, it was a pleasure speaking with you from a global fellow at The Wilson Center, live from Seoul. Thank you very much.
Now stay with the program because, coming up, they were finally leaving their besieged homes when they were attacked. We'll tell you about the blast that condemned a fragile evacuation deal in Syria.
VANIER: Plus this is the day Turkey decides its political future in a historic vote. We'll take you live to Istanbul. Stay with us.
VANIER: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.
WATSON: And I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. A recap now of the breaking news that we're following out of North Korea.
A missile launch from the country's east coast has failed. The U.S. says it blew up shortly after takeoff. Meanwhile U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Seoul. He's been briefed on the situation and he's set to meet with U.S. and South Korean troops.
VANIER: A short time ago I spoke to foreign policy analyst Robin Wright, she's a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and The Woodrow Wilson International Center. I asked her what Washington needs to do next in order to deal with Pyongyang.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: At this juncture, the United States really has to deal increasingly --
WRIGHT: -- with China as the interlocutor with the North Koreans. President Trump has repeatedly said that the Chinese are the ones who need to take the critical steps.
He's tweeted that he's had great confidence that President Xi, after their talks in Mar-a-lago, was beginning to take the right steps. He pointed out again in a tweet that the Chinese had turned back a fleet of coal ships from North Korea.
But this clearly is not enough to change the thinking, the dynamics in North Korea and we have clearly not seen the last test by the North Koreans, arguably even the next few days.
VANIER: So it looks like everybody agrees that the only leverage here could come from China. But China doesn't seem to be really using it. And yet it has -- it's facing a U.S. president, who has said, use your leverage or we will go it alone.
So what more can the U.S. president say to China for them to use their leverage?
WRIGHT: I'm not sure that the United States has that much more leverage. This is a tough decision for Beijing. It has to balance its fears of a unified Korean Peninsula that's more friendly with United States against its own leverage, its own relationship with Pyongyang.
And so it has to figure out a way that its interests are preserved and that it doesn't lose that important strategic asset on its border.
But what more will it be willing to do?
This is very interesting that, just days after the meeting between President Xi and President Trump, the Chinese released their trade figures with North Korea that showed that they were up 40 percent this year over last year at the same time.
So you know, it's tough, seeing what Washington's leverage is. It's always been the key problem. It relies on China.
And what incentive there is for China to do a whole lot more, I think the unpredictability of President Trump may have led to some deeper thinking in Beijing. But clearly not enough to make a difference in Kim Jong-un's thinking right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: All right, let's turn to other world news now.
As they were on their way to safety, at least 100 people were killed. That happened near Aleppo, Syria's second largest city. A blast targeted buses evacuating Shiite villages, who backed President Bashar al-Assad. That was under a deal that also allowed the relocation of rebel supporters from other besieged areas. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has the latest on this.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Dozens of bodies recovered from this scene, absolute carnage, pictures posted on social media, Syrian state television, very hard to see, frankly. People torn apart in their seats on these buses.
They had hoped perhaps this was a journey on the way to a moment of respite. I'll give you a context as to why these evacuation buses were quite so important.
The ones attacked were leaving two towns north of Syria, Foua and Kefraya. Now these are full of regime sympathizers but were in a rebel-held province of Idlib and besieged, had been for months, years.
Also in the south of the country were towns full of rebel sympathizers, Madaya and Zabadani. But they were besieged by the regime. So the U.N. brokered a kind of swap, if you like, allowing a simultaneous evacuation of these two towns that were regime-loyal in the north, Foua, Kefraya, while rebel sympathizing towns in the south, Zabadani and Madaya, were also being evacuated.
But it was those who were leaving Foua and Kefraya, the regime-loyal town, that came under attack today. We don't know precisely whose territory they were in when this blast hit. But we think it was a car bomb and it does appear to be that the evacuation still continued after this tragic, horrifying episode.
In the past, buses from Foua and Kefraya headed there have come under attack from people who clearly were extremists. It wasn't quite clear which group they were affiliated with but nothing like the scale of the devastation today.
This, of course, has many worried in rebel sympathizing areas of some sort of regime reprisal as a result of it but still eyes focused very much on the terrifying toll on civilians in those buses.
As I say, dozens of people of the 3,000 who were leaving Foua and Kefraya, losing their life from this car bomb as they felt they were on their way to safety. These towns had suffered from besieging, starvation, lack of medical supplies for months.
These swaps, some say, will alleviate that suffering but, at the same time, do potentially change the demographic ethnic map of Syria permanently, taking regime sympathizers away from rebel areas entirely, they're often here with rebel areas often Sunni, Syria still seeing absolute savagery on both sides now as this war limps into its seventh year -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Irbil --
WALSH: -- Northern Iraq.
WATSON: Let's take a look at Turkey now, where the polls are open in a referendum on constitutional changes that could produce a seismic shift in the way the country is governed. We're going to go to our Ian Lee, who is now in Istanbul.
Ian, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been either prime minister or president of the country ever since 2002, he's arguably the most powerful leader Turkey has seen since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.
So what is the argument that his supporters use for trying to further expand Erdogan's powers now with this referendum?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ivan, a lot of the things that we've been hearing about really revolve around the economy. That's one thing that Turkey has seen really revived over the past decade, becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world.
People are seeing their standards of living rising. Parts of the country that have been connected to the main cities, seeing new infrastructure. So that's one thing that we've seen over the past 10 years.
And today's referendum is quite historic. There are 18 new changes proposed to the constitution. It comes down to a simple yes-and-no vote for the Turks.
Polls have been open for about two hours now. They're going to be open for about seven more. And, really, we will see a -- this fundamental -- what this constitutional referendum is calling for is of that fundamental shift, going from a parliamentary system, shifting towards a presidential system.
WATSON: All right. That's Ian Lee, live from Istanbul, watching this historic referendum with vast potential changes for the Turkish constitution.
Thank you, Ian.
Now I'm going to pass on to Cyril, who is at our CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
Go ahead. Cyril.
WATSON: I was just admiring Ian's haircut. You know, he went to that same barber that President Erdogan goes to. We saw that report yesterday.
All right. Stay with us on the show. Still ahead after the break, our breaking news coverage of North Korea's failed missile test continues. CNN's Will Ripley is one of the few Western journalists inside the country. He'll be joining us from Pyongyang after this.
WATSON: Plus how residents of South Korea feel about the growing threat from their neighbor to the north. Stay with CNN.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back, everyone. You're watch CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.
IVAN WATSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. The headlines this hour:
North Korean state media so far have not reported on Pyongyang's failed missile test early Sunday. South Korea says the rocket was launched from the North Korean port of Sinpo on the east coast.
The U.S. military says it blew up immediately so there wasn't much time to gather data. But they've determined it was a land-based missile and did not appear to have intercontinental capabilities.
CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with the U.S. vice president and she joins us now on the phone, I believe, from South Korea, where Vice President Pence has just arrived.
Dana, thank you for joining us.
Can you tell me what kind of message is the vice president hoping to bring to nervous allies here in the region, that are worrying, perhaps, that North Korea may be preparing to conduct a sixth nuclear test?
DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean -- the colloquial way to say it is, we've got your back. And the main reason or the initial reason for the vice president's trip to Asia was to talk about economic ties in Japan.
But, of course, his first stop is here, where we just landed in South Korea. And it does come just as North Korea does what -- did what they tend to do, which is launch a missile, either for testing or for show; in this case, as you said, we were told by a White House foreign policy adviser on the plane, on the way here to South Korea, that they were told that it was not an ICBM, that it was a failure and it failed actually after about four or five seconds and that the vice president is not likely to dwell on it much for several reasons.
One is because it was a failed launch. It wasn't nuclear in nature.
And also because, why give the North Koreans the satisfaction of dwelling on something that they tend to do for show and for attention?
So there's no question that this did is a very, very tense time. It's not just this; it's the lead-up to this trip. It's the fact that there have been very, very tense back-and-forths with the president himself on Twitter, with North Korean statements and, of course, a new effort, along with the Chinese, to try to push North Korea to change the way that they're operating.
WATSON: And as we're speaking, we're watching video filmed earlier of Vice President Pence's arrival in South Korea, where, of course, the U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops stationed.
Quick question: did you sense any surprise from Vice President Pence and his entourage when the news of the failed missile launch came out?
BASH: Not in the least. This is something that they were expecting. In fact, they say that they wouldn't be surprised if it happens again while we're here.
And forgive me if I sound a little bit breathless. We just got out of the motorcade and we're going to the national cemetery, a national cemetery here, where the vice president is going to lay a wreath. So I might just, out of respect, have to perhaps call you back after this is over because this is our very first stop in South Korea.
After this he's going to go see --
BASH: -- U.S. and South Korean troops. He's going to go to church; it is Easter Sunday and he is a devout Christian.
WATSON: All right, that's Dana Bash, live on the phone from South Korea, traveling with the American vice president.
VANIER: Let's bring in Adam Mount now, he's a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, he's also a former nuclear security fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Adam, if you cycle through what the U.S. has already done in regard to North Korea, you realize the U.S. has tried diplomacy with talks; the U.S. has tried flexing its military muscles with intimidation, which it does with the U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea regularly.
It has tried economic sanctions, it has tried leaning on China to lean on North Korea.
What can the U.S. do?
ADAM MOUNT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It's a great question. For many years, the United States has cycled through these options periodically. There are no new options. It's a slate of bad options. It's a menu of options that we're not certain will work very well.
But what's different now is that there's an opportunity to convince China to do more on North Korea. China exists -- there are two worlds for China on North Korea. One is that they see North Korea as a buffer against American power in the region, as a safeguard of stability in the region.
The other that is they've come to see North Korea as more of a threat to stability in the region. Increasingly, it looks like they're taking a harder line on North Korea. They've made some signals that they're willing to increase sanctions pressure. They've allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution that limits their shipments of coal to and from North Korea. That's something that they wouldn't have done in the past. So, increasingly, China is taking a harder line and that could be a
major opportunity if the United States and South Korea and China are willing to sit down to talks and put together a program of inducements that could convince North Korea to limit its nuclear program.
VANIER: But, Adam, look, if you're looking at China's role, you really have contradictory signals. Our correspondent in Beijing was telling us this earlier, that, yes, they have brought back those coal shipments and that's one signal that they might be able to lean harder, be willing to lean harder on North Korea.
But on the other hand, they've also increased their financial trade with North Korea since the beginning of the year. So that's a contradictory signal.
How do you read that?
MOUNT: It is and it's very difficult to read. So like I said, China exists between two worlds. And it's clear that, within the Chinese power structure, there are members who -- and officials who think both ways. So there's a struggle over how to interpret Chinese policy towards the regime.
Now it's not just economic pressure that China's putting on North Korea. They're also putting diplomatic pressure and political pressure. Kim Jong-un has never met with President Xi. The relationship is not a good one; it's not a friendly one. At various times, North Korean behavior's been almost insulting to China.
And so they've increasingly helped to isolate North Korea diplomatically. And then there are also these tantalizing signals in Chinese state media that suggest a readiness to deploy Chinese forces to the North Korean border to protect against collapse of the regime and the possibility of refugees streaming over the border.
So this is a fairly new development and it's another signal that China's looking to get tougher.
VANIER: It's worth reminding our viewers that, from China's perspective, it wants to keep North Korea as a buffer, both because it wants to avoid regime collapse, as you mentioned, but also it wants it as a buffer between itself and North Korean -- American presence in the region.
MOUNT: I think that's right. And so the real struggle is to convince China that U.S. and Chinese interests are aligned on this, that neither country is -- neither the United States nor China is interested in a collapse of North Korea.
And both countries are interested in rolling back their nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which, frankly, pose a threat to both countries. So this is an area where Chinese and U.S. interests have considerable overlap.
But the difficulty is to work together, to put together a constructive package of inducements and a joint and coordinated negotiating strategy and, really, to be able to approach the North Korean regime with an offer they can't refuse.
VANIER: Adam Mount, thank you very much for coming on the show. Thanks for your insights.
MOUNT: My pleasure.
VANIER: And just before we go to break, Ivan, I wanted to ask you because you've covered this story before, you've been to North Korea, it was a few years back.
Are you at all surprised by the way it's developed?
Or was the writing on the wall already at the time?
WATSON: Arguably it was -- the writing was on the wall. I was there in July 2013 --
WATSON: -- it was the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. And Kim Jong-un was less than a year and a half into his term as leader of the country.
There seemed to an deliberate effort, Cyril, to try to make him look and resemble his grandfather, Kim il-sung, the real leader, the first leader of North Korea.
In the years that he's been in power, Kim Jong-un, you've had more missile tests than during his father and grandfather's terms in office. You've had several nuclear weapons tests, a little bit of loosening up of the economy.
I remember being shown credit card machines for the first time. But, still, that tight repression; I wasn't, for example, even allowed to see North Korean currency. And the story was military, independence, self-sufficiency, that is the mantra in North Korea -- Cyril.
VANIER: All right. Ivan, we've got to get this break in, I'll see you on the back of this, thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
VANIER: Welcome back, everyone. We're welcoming our viewers in the U.S. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.
WATSON: And I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. And you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
U.S. vice president Mike Pence arrived in South Korea a short time ago. He landed in Seoul just hours after another failed missile launch by North Korea. Aides to the vice president say he has been in contact with President Trump.
South Korean officials say the launch attempt was made from the port city of Sinpo on the east coast. The type of missile has not yet been identified. But the U.S. military does not believe it was intercontinental. A U.S. official says the land-based weapon malfunctioned almost immediately and exploded.
Our Will Ripley is one of the few Western journalists currently reporting from North Korea. And Alexandra Field is standing by south of the demilitarized zone in South Korea.
Thank you for joining us at this hour.
Will, I'm going to go to you first in Pyongyang.
Were you surprised at all by reports of this missile launch?
And does anybody else in North Korea know about it?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the answer to your first question, was I surprised?
Yes and no. We've been talking so much for the past week about the possibility of a sixth nuclear test. Even at the parade yesterday, when I was chatting with Don Lemon, I said that North Korea has the ability to roll out a mobile missile launcher and launch a solid fuel- powered, land-based missile very quickly and we could see another missile launch sometime around the Day of the Sun.
So you're always thinking that, around these major holidays, North Korea may attempt some sort of show of force. Everybody was thinking nuclear test, which could still happen, by the way, at some point, because there are other --
RIPLEY: -- significant events coming up in North Korea throughout the month of April, leading up to their military anniversary on the 25th of April. So this is a window of time where we need to watch very closely.
However, I thought after all of the missiles were rolled out at the parade, including more missiles than have ever been shown publicly before and these two apparent new kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles, that perhaps that was the show of force for now.
And given the sensitivity, the heightened tensions, the fact that China may be more willing to take action against North Korea, that that parade might have been the show of force. Clearly it wasn't.
Now the question becomes, since this was a failure, will North Korean leader Kim Jong-un try again?
Second question you ask, do people in North Korea know about it?
The answer is no, it has not been and likely will not be, almost certainly will not be reported in North Korean state media. They don't routinely report about their military activities and tests unless they are successful and there's some sort of a propaganda value for telling the North Korean people about it.
WATSON: Will, about the military parade that you witnessed on Saturday.
Can you explain why, from the North Korean point of view, these types of demonstrations are so important?
And then what's it like to be an eyewitness, standing there next to the military machines and the thousands and thousands of soldiers and supporters as they've marched past?
RIPLEY: And I know you've experienced this yourself firsthand, Ivan. It is something very special to North Korea although I will say that China's military parade is also quite an impressive spectacle.
But North Korea really has these military parades down and they do it almost better than anywhere else in the world in terms of just the precision, the involvement of the citizens. Citizens of Pyongyang are expected to be a part of these major celebratory events and they turn out in droves, tens of thousands or possibly even beyond that.
You could talk about hundreds of thousands, depending on the celebration and what's happening. They fill the entire massive Kim il-sung Square, which is the space in the heart of Pyongyang that has very large buildings, large portraits of the two late leaders, designed to make the society feel big and the individual feel small.
But when you see all of these individuals collectively together, it's quite an impressive spectacle.
Seeing the missiles up close and feeling the vibrations in the ground when these North Korean soldiers were goose-stepping in unison is a really remarkable experience. I don't want to say that it's an intimidating feeling because I've now covered a couple of these, so you know what to expect.
But these ICBMs in particular were very large, larger than I would have expected to see rolling through the streets. And it really is quite a show of force. And this is propaganda for, really for 25 million North Koreans, who are watching this on the news.
It was being replayed on television just a short time ago when I was watching North Korean state TV. It will play over and over again in the coming weeks and months and even longer.
And then also, of course, the other propaganda message is for the rest of the world, to show the rest of the world that North Korea has these weapons, that they're not afraid to use them if they're provoked. They're not afraid to go to war if provoked.
And so that's why the international press is invited here on these select occasions to take pictures, because this is one part of North Korea that the leader Kim Jong-un wants the world to see. WATSON: All right, that's Will Ripley, live from Pyongyang. And we thank you and your team for your sleepless week of reporting from North Korea. Thanks again.
I'm going to go to Cyril now at CNN headquarters.
VANIER: Let's bring in Alexandra Field from the Yongsan military base, the headquarters of U.S. forces in South Korea. U.S. vice president Mike Pence is set to meet troops there shortly. Alexandra, the U.S. has already some nearly 30,000 troops in this country.
Is there anything more that the U.S. can do at this time to allay South Korea's fears?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of those fears may be allayed by the fact that the vice president is actually making this trip here during tense times.
This was a preplanned trip but it does speak to the seriousness with which the Trump administration regards the situation right here on the peninsula and their commitment to trying to work with allies in the region to chart a course forward.
This is the third visit of a high-level Trump administration official. First, you had the Secretary of Defense, coming out here to reassure allies in the region, like South Korea and Japan, that these alliances were strong and the U.S.' commitment remains in place.
Then you had the secretary of state coming out here and saying that 20 years of efforts to control a growing problem with North Korea had failed.
Now you've got the vice president coming out here with stops in both Seoul and Tokyo to talk about what the course forward is and how you counter these mounting North Korean nuclear threats.
These conversations won't be a direct reflection of what we saw happening this morning, that failed missile launch; that's something that Washington is playing down with every respect. They are feeling out of Washington is that there's no need to give more credence to a failed missile attempt, there's no reason to pay more attention to Pyongyang for that kind of measure.
They don't consider it to be the most provocative of measures that Pyongyang could have taken on at this point. Remember --
FIELD: -- analysts in the U.S. are saying that, based on satellite data and satellite images, it appears that North Korea is ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any moment. That would have been regarded as a far more provocative action as the vice president arrives here in the region -- Cyril.
VANIER: Alex, tell me how South Korea's ongoing domestic political crisis interacts with this regional security crisis because South Koreans, they've got a lot on their hands right now. The former president has been impeached, jailed.
Are they able to respond to a threat at the moment?
FIELD: I don't think there's any reason to doubt anyone's ability to respond to a threat, because, don't forget, we're talking about an alliance that's been in place for some 60 years here.
We know that South Korea does depend on cooperation with the U.S. for defense against North Korea, against any threat that North Korea could pose. So there isn't any kind of lack of confidence about ability here.
But I see what you're asking, Cyril. It is an awkward situation that people in South Korea are in the middle of. First, you've got the U.S. and China, who seem to be having the loudest sort of global dialogue about how to "handle," quote-unquote, North Korea. You've got South Korea which is sitting right here.
We know the people who live in this country are the ones who are most directly in line for some kind of retaliation from North Korea if provoked by, say, the U.S. But the other sort of thorn in this issue is the fact that the president, the elected president, has been ousted from office after an impeachment.
You're in the middle of a presidential election cycle. The topic of how to deal with North Korea is a key election issue.
So people are looking at all of the different candidates here, seeing what kind of course forward those candidates would advocate. Then you've got the fact that you've got these high-level Washington officials, including now the vice president, meeting with an acting president who won't even be in office in just a few weeks.
So it's important to have these conversations. Washington will say it's important to have this dialogue. But, yes, the truth is Washington will be dealing with a new leader in just a couple of weeks.
VANIER: Alexandra Field, reporting live from Seoul, South Korea, thank you very much.
And we'll have more on North Korea's failed missile launch at the top of the hour. For now let's bring you some other stories making news this hour around the world -- Ivan.
WATSON: Thanks, Cyril.
In the U.S., more than 20 people have been arrested after fighting broke out at dueling protests in Berkeley, California. The Patriot Day rally was originally organized to show support for U.S. President Donald Trump. But eventually police had to use pepper spray to subdue the crowds. Our affiliate KRON's Spencer Blake has the story.
SPENCER BLAKE, KRON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Though the pro-Trump and anti-fascism groups started the day somewhat organized, the delineation between the two eventually melted away, as the counter demonstrations poured into the streets of Berkeley.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're sick people, they're (INAUDIBLE) and they're sick. They're angry and they're sick.
BLAKE (voice-over): Every so often, the masses would swarm from one side of Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to the other. Several times, groups within the crowd would scatter. That was usually either followed or preceded by the sound of a smoke bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept my distance, pretty much, throughout the whole event. And whenever I see something, I kind of just keep that distance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a couple fights, you know, people punching each other, grab the back of their shirt and pull them away.
BLAKE (voice-over): Tensions would ease for a few minutes but soon people on opposing sides of the rallies would be at it again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're crazy. But I was hoping that in some way we could stop them from doing what they do. But they did it anyway.
BLAKE (voice-over): The longer the protests went on the more bloody faces, posters and streets we saw. Weapons included sticks, rocks, glass bottles and fists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are cowards. This is all they do, they hide with their masks, (INAUDIBLE), they sucker punch you, they hit you in the back of the head with sticks. (INAUDIBLE).
BLAKE (voice-over): Protesters made it up to Shattuck Avenue before things finally started to die down.
VANIER: Other protests have been going on around the nation to demand that President Trump release his tax returns. Polls show that 74 percent of Americans think he should. These demonstrators in Florida marched from Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach for about five kilometers, that's three miles, to the entrance of Mr. Trump's Mar-a-lago resort.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more lies. This is what democracy looks like.
VANIER: And the president is spending the Easter weekend at that resort. It's his seventh trip there since taking office. Protest organizers say there were large demonstrations in about 200 cities across the country.
Mr. Trump is the first American president in 40 years not to release his tax returns. He claims he can't because he's under audit. But the U.S. Treasury Department says there's nothing stopping a taxpayer from releasing his returns, even if he is under audit. OK, a new report has been released, highlighting how climate change in the U.S. is negatively affecting people's health. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more on that.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm an asthmatic and I know this firsthand. We carry around our inhalers, asthma pumps. And, you know, we feel the impacts of climate change here in the United States --
VAN DAM: -- and, of course, around the world. But this report coming from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate Health have highlighted some of these areas across the United States.
You'll see in my graphic here some of the symbols indicating certain climate-related health risks, including extreme temperatures, poor outdoor air quality, contaminated food and water, mosquito-borne infections and even increases in wildfires. In fact, they highlighted certain areas of the country.
But one thing that came out of this report is that globally there's about 12.6 million people that die each year just due to environmental risk factors. Now if we look at the United States alone, we're already seeing an uptick in our temperatures. Globally, we've had just under 1 degree Celsius temperature rise on average.
Look at the record highs that we've set. Over 32,000 in 2016 alone just across the U.S. So this has allowed for an increase in wildfires across the western portions of the U.S.
Remember we had a well-advertised drought for six years in the state of California. Just 1 degree Celsius temperature rise across the globe increases coverage of wildfires by over 400 percent.
That's been evident just in the past three decades for the number of large wildfires that burned in the western U.S. just over a 10-year period. We saw a significant increase in that acreage being burned, all thanks to warmer temperatures, the snow melts earlier in the mountain ranges and that increases our fire season dramatically across the western U.S.
Across the eastern U.S., we've also had air pollution becoming more stagnant. We've also had increased severe weather events. Remember superstorm Sandy in 2012.
We also can't forget about mosquito-borne illnesses.
Who can forget the Zika virus that spread across much of Western Africa and even a few reported cases across the United States?
This is all thanks to the warmer temperatures and the mosquito-borne illnesses.
Speaking of warmer temperatures, look at what we've got ahead of this weekend on Easter, 87 in the nation's capital. I want to end with this. This is tornado damage coming out of Texas.
This occurred roughly 36 hours ago. Scary moments out of the Panhandle there. No reports of injuries but look at the damage coming from this. Significant stuff.
VANIER: Yes, absolutely. All right, Derek from the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much.
And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta.
WATSON: And I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. I'll be back in a moment with Natalie Allen and George Howell with more news on the crisis in Korea and from around the world.