Return to Transcripts main page


Growing Concern Over North Korea Aggression; Trump Defends About-Face On China; U.S. Delivers Warning To North Korea; Man Shoots Random Passerby, Posts Video; Erdogan Declares Victory In Turkey Referendum. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 05:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The administration, it seems to be speaking with one voice saying all options are on the table. The VP's visit coming amid growing tensions with North Korea and hours after the regime's failed missile test launch.

With the U.S. pressing China to get its (inaudible) state under control, Pence echoes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's words from one month ago today. The era of strategic patience is over. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We seek peace but America always has always sought peace through strength. The people of North Korea, the military of North Korea, should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America. Stand with our ally. The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad. We will continue to stand strong to achieve our shared objective across this region and across the world of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The official message from the Trump administration on that failed missile launch once again is deliberately low key. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis put out a very brief 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."

The blown launch not easing concern over Pyongyang's aggressive work on ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. At a weekend parade, North Korea showed off some very new military hardware.

For the latest, we turn to CNN Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea where Mike Pence has some very strong words indeed for North Korea. Good morning to you, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Dave. That's right. There was one part of his statement when he was standing next to the acting president of South Korea that really stuck out for me. When he was talking about President Trump himself, he pointed out that there have been some military actions in Syria and in Afghanistan.

And he had a very thinly veiled direct warning for North Korea saying, quote, "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve." So really a much stronger statement than we have heard from many of the Trump administration officials in recent weeks.

We had the secretary of state coming here and the defense secretary coming in here and now of course the second in command, the vice president of the United States.

The fact he went to the DMZ was symbolic. It was significant in the way that he wanted North Korea to know that he was there and very close to the border with them and of course, if he came out then the North Korean soldiers came out and took photos as they often do with these VIPs.

But he did specify that all options are on the table as we keep hearing from Trump administration officials, but did specify that that obviously the preferred option would be the peaceful option. Also mentioning negotiations.

The acting president of South Korea standing next to him said they both agreed that the U.S. missile defense system would be deployed as soon as possible, would be operational as soon as possible.

We know parts have been arriving over the past month and a half, maybe two months here in South Korea. Something which China doesn't like but Pence said would go ahead -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Paula, thank you. A May 9th election there for a new president in South Korea. Thank you.

KOSIK: China is a critical wildcard in the North Korea equation. The vice president had this to say about China and they're willingness to cooperate on North Korea.


PENCE: It is heartening to see China commit to these actions, but the United States is troubled by China's economic retaliation against South Korea for taking appropriate actions to defend itself. The better path would be for China to address the North Korean threat that's make such defensive measures necessary.


BRIGGS: All right, so where does this go next? With all the latest news in the Korean Peninsula, let's welcome in CNN political analyst, David Drucker, to break this all down. Good morning to you, David.

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: So the line we're hearing from everyone in this administration is the era of strategic patience is over. Is that in a sense the Trump foreign policy as we know it? DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Who knows what the Trump foreign policy is yet. I mean, who knows what Trump does, what the Trump policy is yet. I do think, though, that the president to his credit has approached the Korean problem with a sense of urgency and an understanding that his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat, have tried various things to try and get this wacky regime in line, and nothing has worked.

And Bill Clinton engaged the administration, sent Madeline Albright, the secretary of state there, but I still remember Madeline Albright toasting with Kim Jong-Il. That didn't go over so well.

George W. Bush brought in China. We had six-party talks. They took sort of a tougher rhetorical line. That didn't work and so I think the Trump administration is trying to do things a little bit differently.

[05:05:04]We don't yet know exactly what the strategy is. We do know that they're trying to put some pressure on China, both friendly pressure and not so friendly pressure to try to use China with China's leverage to bring the North Koreans to heel.

BRIGGS: Is it working though?

DRUCKER: Well, let's give it some time. As the president said in a recent interview, he thought, as he said during the campaign, that it's easy. China snaps it's fingers and North Korea does whatever it says and he says, he now understands that that was a misguided opinion.

So I think that we have to see what this whole, the era of strategic patience is over thing because in a sense we are being patient because we don't have a lot of good options there because Seoul, the capital of South Korea and the metropolis of 20 million people is just across the border.

And so any action we may be compelled to take in the future and we might and I don't think any president should take anything off the table just as a matter of policy but that could have an immediate military impact on Seoul. Millions of lives could be in jeopardy and it's a very difficult situation.

KOSIK: OK, so if you look at what President Trump is doing on the world stage and what Vice President Pence is doing on the world stage, the U.S. seems to be showing its muscle talking tough talk. Case in point, the vice president in Seoul. Listen to what he had to say about not testing Trump.


PENCE: Just in the past two weeks the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KOSIK: And then you have H.R. McMaster saying all options are on the table. This is some tough talk toward North Korea. Is the U.S. at risk maybe of miscalculating this whole equation and instigating something that's already there but ratcheting it up to the point of no return?

DRUCKER: Well, look, I mean, I think the vice president does a little bit too much look out for Trump talk for my taste. Basically you want to do it in terms of the United States. I remember when Republicans used to criticize President Obama for using "I" far too much and my team as opposed to us and our team.

So they might be careful there not to make it this sort of mano-a-mano thing. But let's remember for the last 20 years, we have tried all sorts of different tactics with North Korea, diplomatic. We bought them turbines and reactors.

KOSIK: We've made all sorts of agreements they never stuck to.

DRUCKER: And I think that President Obama tried to do things differently and saw the limits of walking softly without threatening a big stick. I mean, diplomacy often doesn't work unless it has military teeth behind it as a threat. So I don't think there's anything wrong with talking tough.

North Koreans are the ones here that are in the wrong. Clearly, you don't want to instigate where nothing is necessary, but these guys are threatening us for the potential for eventually, you know, being able to fire ICBMs that could reach the U.S. mainland. We have to try and do something.

BRIGGS: What about the domestic agenda? I mean, look, his hands has been forced in this regard, but where is the Trump domestic agenda moving at this point.

DRUCKER: Let us know what the domestic agenda is and I'll tell you where it's moving. There are so many --

BRIGGS: What's the focus?

DRUCKER: I don't know. There may be a lack of focus at the moment. I do think there are some things that are being done that aren't getting attention. They have been repealing a lot of Obama air regulations through this congressional review act. This is actual legislation that is passing through the Congress, the president is signing.

He is undoing a lot of the Obama regulatory regime. So where is he falling down on the job or not getting it done yet? The major campaign promises repeal and replacing Obamacare for one. What's the tax reform plan? We don't know.

BRIGGS: Infrastructure.

DRUCKER: Well, in the infrastructure was really not supposed to be until next year, now it might be until this year so a lot of lack of focus. A lack of a plan. I don't know if the president knows what his plans are other than getting things done because the president didn't come to this job except for an issue like trade with a sort of underpinning value system that kind of told you what he was about and where he was going.

They have to fund the government. That's coming up in a few weeks, and so, you know, we'll see where all this goes, but I think you're correct in saying that it's, you know, kind of like a bunch of confetti right now, some of it looks really good, but you can't yet -- sort of a pattern of what exactly it is.

BRIGGS: We want to know about a special election in Atlanta and why this matters nationally. We'll talk to you about that at 5:30.

KOSIK: Thanks so much. See you in a bit.

BRIGGS: All right, breaking news, police may have a clue in their search for a suspect authorities say made a video of himself killing an elderly man in Cleveland and then posting it on Facebook.

Authorities earlier said Steve Stevens may have left Ohio and now we have learned a ping was detected from Steven's cell phone in Eerie, Pennsylvania. That's according to the Eerie Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police.

[05:10:04]Stevens was last seen driving a late model white Ford Fusion with temporary plates. Officials say Stevens is armed and dangerous.

KOSIK: His mother, Maggie Green, tells CNN she spoke to her son Sunday and that he said he was shooting people because he was, quote, "mad with his girlfriend." Authorities say hundreds of leads have poured in. They are urging Stevens to surrender.


CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE CHIEF: We need to bring this to a conclusion today. We need to get Steve off the streets. People later on can dive into exactly why this happened but there needs -- there's no need for any further bloodshed in this incident tonight.


KOSIK: Stevens also claimed to have committed multiple homicides but Cleveland police are saying so far Godwin (ph) is the only known victim.

OK, a referendum with major implications for a big player on the world stage. Turkey voting to consolidate powers for its president. How does this impact a key NATO ally in the war on terror? We're live in Istanbul, next.



KOSIK: Some are calling it the death of democracy in Turkey. President Recep Erdogan declaring victory in Sunday's critical referendum vote. But the country's main opposition party is challenging the result alleging massive fraud.

Erdogan won just over 51 percent of the vote. If that holds up that means an all-powerful presidential system in Turkey. This in a key U.S. ally in the region. One that is critical in the war on terror.

Let's go live now to Istanbul and bring in CNN's Ian Lee. Ian, walk me through what some of these stepped up powers mean not just for Turkey but how that could impact the U.S. as well?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alison, they're fundamentally shifting their government from a parliamentary system where the prime minister is the executive power to this presidential system and the president will have a wide range of powers and some saying too much power because he'll have power over the judiciary by selecting judges without parliamentary approval.

He'll be able to select the cabinet without parliamentary approval. Also he'll be the head of the party and in Turkey's parliamentary system, the head of the party chooses who is going to run in that party for parliament so he'll have a good chunk of the parliamentarians loyal to him.

This means a lot for Turkey going forward. When you talk to his supporters they say he'll be able to revive the economy but also provide security. That's been a crucial thing we have been noticing over the last couple of years because of the number of ISIS attacks and also attacks by Kurdish militants, the PKK.

They believe with this consolidate power, he'll be able to protect people. Now you talk to people who oppose this, the no camp, they say this destroys the fundamentals of democracy of Turkey, the checks and balances, the multiparty system that they said which represents the people.

Going forward looking at the war on terror, this does mean that when you talk to Turkey, that means you're talking to the president. If you want to get something done in neighboring Syria, you are going to need the president's approval and him on board with it -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right, a lot of consolidation of power there getting started in 2019. CNN's Ian Lee live for us in Istanbul, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: And consolidating that power for a long time. Perhaps a decade of Erdogan in charge.

Scare story and sad story in the world of sports, Boston Celtics star, Isaiah Thomas, playing with a very heavy heart putting team first hours after his sister was tragically killed. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report," next.


[05:22:20] BRIGGS: All right, in Boston last night, an emotional return to the basketball court for Celtics star, Isaiah Thomas, one day after the tragic death of his sister -- Alison.

KOSIK: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Dave. Isaiah Thomas, the smallest player on the Celtics roster, but last night, he showed had the biggest heart. His sister, China, was killed early Saturday morning in a one car accident in their home state of Washington. She was only 22 years old.

Teammate, Avery Bradley comforting Thomas on the bench before the game. Several messages written on his shoes including RIP little sis and I love you. Tears during a moment of silence before the game and continued to flow during the national anthem.

Despite all the emotions though Thomas would play and lead his team with 33 points. In the end, the points weren't enough for the win. The Bulls go on to take game one 106-102 there in Boston. Thomas's coach praised him as both a player and a person after his performance.


BRAD STEVENS, CELTICS HEAD COACH: He was incredible. He's an amazing player and amazing person. Days won't get easier for him, but he somehow plays like that.


WIRE: In the much anticipated matchup between Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Houston's James Harden, at least two leading MVP candidates, it would be Harden making heads spin taking round one and game one of their playoff series and Westbrook had a solid game. He put up 22 points in this one but Harden would end up going for 37. The Rockets crush the Thunder 118-87.

Finally some fun for you this morning, you think the Easter bunny is cute and cuddly think again. Cover your eyes kids because peter cotton tail is coming. Teddy Roosevelt, the mascot, yesterday absolutely obliterated by the Easter bunny.

BRIGGS: Coy, you're a former NFLer, you have to throw a flag there. Didn't he go high? I think he went at the head.

WIRE: It did look like targeting if you ask me, Dave, but I will say this, I have never only in my wildest dreams hit someone like this in my NFL career. This is outstanding. Sign him up. Sign this guy up.

BRIGGS: Coy, no doubt that is high. It was a great shot none the less.

WIRE: No doubt.

KOSIK: Thanks, Coy. You know, something tells me that you love Easter so for my debut, I decided to bring you chocolate. Well, there's chocolate inside. Happy Easter.

[05:25:06]OK, show down is brewing over North Korea's nuclear program. Vice President Pence with some tough talk on a trip to Seoul. Hear what he had to say about Pyongyang and Beijing in hopes of stopping North Korea's nuclear program.


BRIGGS: Breaking news this morning, the vice president with some strong words of warning for North Korea as he visits the DMZ. We are live with how this effects the battle to stop Pyongyang.

KOSIK: And the manhunt is expanding this morning after a murder in Cleveland is posted on Facebook. We have new details on where the search is taking investigators.

Good morning and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: And I'm David Briggs. Perhaps a Trump foreign policy is merging this morning. We'll get into that in a moment with David Drucker, but first the breaking news, Vice President Mike Pence on the border between North and South Korea visiting the demilitarized zone, the DMZ, delivering a message to Pyongyang.