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Pence Warns North Korea 'Era of Strategic Patience is Over'; McMaster: 'This Problem is Coming to a Head'; U.S. Analyzing North Korea's Missile Arsenal. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:58:38] CHRIS CUOMO, ANN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, April 17, 6 p.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me. And once again...

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good being here.

CUOMO: ... we have breaking news.

Strategic patience is over. Do not test the president's resolve or our military strength. That is the Vice President Mike Pence's warning to North Korea, the vice president making an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone amid escalating tensions with North Korea. CNN's Dana Bash has an exclusive interview with the vice president at the DMZ.

HARLOW: Meantime, military experts are analyzing these images of the missiles paraded through the streets of Pyongyang after this weekend's failed launch. What do they say about their capabilities, and is the United States on a collision course with the reclusive regime?

Major global concerns on day 88 of the Trump presidency. We, of course, have it all covered for you. Let's begin with our Dana Bash, live in Seoul, South Korea, with this exclusive interview.

Dana, very, very telling, the vice president.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. This was always going to be an intense and tense trip. But the fact that the vice president decided to go to the DMZ at this time when sabres are definitely rattling, it was even more noteworthy and his remarks even more telling.


BASH: Mr. Vice president, I was watching you watch what is behind you earlier. What was going through your mind looking at North Korea?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a frontier of freedom. Now for more than six decades, U.S. forces and forces of South Korea have held the line for freedom here at the DMZ. And it's inspiring for me to see the resolve of these soldiers, to see the alliance that we have forged with the people of South Korea throughout the generations. And it gives me great confidence as we go into the future that we will achieve our objective: the secure and prosperous South Korea. But also, that we will -- that we will see a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

BASH: You said that the age -- excuse me, you said that the era of patience, strategic patience is over. What does that mean in real terms?

PENCE: It was the policy of the United States of America during prior administrations to practice what they called strategic patience. That was to hope to marshal international support to bring an end to the nuclear ambitions and the ballistic missile program of North Korea. That clearly has failed. And the advent of nuclear weapons testing, the development of a nuclear program, even this -- this weekend to see another attempt at a ballistic missile launch, all confirms the fact that strategic patience has failed.

BASH: But what does it mean to end it in practical terms? It's either use military force or find a diplomatic solution that has eluded all of your predecessors?

PENCE: Well, I think as the president's made clear, that we're going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience, but we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea.

Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably. And I know the president was heartened by his discussions with President Xi. We've seen China begin to take actions to bring pressure on North Korea. But there needs to be more.

BASH: And, you know, this is real for you. You know that the -- that there are estimates that North Korea could have a missile ready that could hit the continental U.S., Seattle, by 2020, which is going to be on your watch. I mean, is that weighing on you, and is that a deadline that you all have in mind?

PENCE: I know the president of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. The presence of U.S. forces here in South Korea are a longstanding commitment to the Asian Pacific; and ensuring the security of the continental United States will remain a priority of this administration.

But look, we want to be clear. Our hope and, frankly, our prayer is that, by marshalling the resources of nations across the Asian Pacific, not just South Korea and Japan, other allies and China to bring renewed pressure to bear will achieve our goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

But the people in North Korea should make no mistake that the United States of America and our allies will see to the security of this region and see to the security of the people of our country.

BASH: I know we're running late. I just have to ask about your dad. I just heard you say that General Brooks gave you some information about his service here. He was awarded the Bronze Star. What did you learn? And how does it feel to be here in an area that is still at war, effectively. I mean, only an armistice; still at war for 67 years.

PENCE: It's -- it's very meaningful for me and my family to be here so many years after my father's service. To be honest with you, my dad didn't talk about his combat experience much until we were all grown up. It was a lot of tough fighting here, and he spent time on Pork Chop Hill and Mount Baldy. And the general and his team were kind enough to share information about those battles with us.

But I think in some ways, my dad just might be smiling from heaven to see that the sacrifices that he and other American soldiers and South Korean soldiers made here now passed on to my generation has not changed our commitment to the security and prosperity to the people of South Korea. The sacrifices that -- that he made and that generation of Americans have made this an extraordinary success of South Korea possible.

And for me, it's -- it's deeply meaningful to be here and maybe, in some small way, to continue that generation's work and to make it clear to the world that America stands with South Korea to preserve freedom on the Korean Peninsula and to bring stability and security to the Asian Pacific.


[06:05:18] BASH: Now you notice there, standing in the DMZ with North Korean troops. It's hard to see there because the interview was done inside glass in a more secure area. But with North Korean troops a hundred feet behind him, the vice president was much more focused in his answers to my questions on diplomacy.

It was about an hour, two hours later that he was standing with the acting president of South Korea; and he struck a very different tone. He was much more aggressive, saying that the people -- the regime of North Korea should remember the strength of President Trump when talking about his strikes in Syria and also in Afghanistan.

And he said North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or strength and that of the armed forces of the United States. So very different tone there, Poppy and Chris, standing with the South Korean president.

And obviously, in diplomacy, just like in any other way, shape or form that we see these speeches come, the fact that he wanted to stand side by side with the South Korean leader and say that was quite telling.

CUOMO: Dana, that is the main issue of the day, and that was the interview to have. Dana, appreciate it. Be safe. See you at home.

President Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, says the problem with North Korea is, quote, "coming to a head." Can the U.S. pressure China to stop the north's nuclear ambition? CNN's Athena Jones live in D.C. with more -- Athena. ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

Well, that is the key question. The president has been quite vocal on Twitter and otherwise about his expectation that China, North Korea's main trading partner, is going to step up pressure on the regime to rein in its nuclear ambitions, though he has recently acknowledged that even China may not have the silver bullet here.

One thing is clear from the perspective of the president's national security team, and that is that some sort of action is necessary. Here's more of what national security adviser H.R. McMaster had to say about this. Take a listen.


GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think it's really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, in particular, but also the Chinese leadership that this is coming to a head. So it's time for us to take what actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.


JONES: You heard McMaster talking about undertaking all actions short of a military option. And so it's interesting to see the president take to Twitter on Sunday morning to talk about U.S. Military prowess. He tweeted, "Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice."

So you have a lot of tough rhetoric on both sides. You have North Korean officials who are saying the country is ready for war. The president bragging about U.S. military strength, and China calling on both sides to reach a peaceful solution. So a lot of eyes are going to be on what comes out of the vice president's trip to the region this week -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Athena Jones for us in Washington. Thank you so much.

U.S. military experts are now analyzing these images of North Korea's missile arsenal, on display for the world to see at that military parade over the weekend. What does this it say about their actual capabilities and any advancements of their systems?

Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. And Barbara, many are pointing to one image, one image that they say is something new.


The slow-moving parade rolled through Pyongyang. The question is how fast does this represent an advancement in North Korea's weapons program. Analysts are looking, in particular, at the images of canisters that could contain intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Of course, the missiles that could someday reach the United States. Is this real or not? Canisters, but are there missiles to go with it? U.S. officials at this point aren't saying.

It would be bigger than anything North Korea has built so far. Only one thing that they showed off in this parade. They also showed off intermediate range missiles. Submarine-launched, land-launched. These are the kind of missiles that could hit South Korea or Japan.

So as they look at all of this, what they're trying to determine is how much of this is real. How much of this represents North Korean operational capability. They had a missile test failure over the weekend. If it is all real, that race between North Korea's capability to threaten the U.S. and the U.S. ability to get a diplomatic method to roll them back, becomes much more urgent, again, as the world waits to see if North Korea now, their next step, may be another underground nuclear test -- Poppy, Chris.

[06:10:08] CUOMO: All right. Barbara, thank you very much.

Let's discuss the state of play. Let's bring back Dana Bash, the only network correspondent traveling with the vice president in Seoul. Also joining us is Gordon Chang. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" and a columnist for "The Daily Beast." And CNN political analyst David Gregory. An important morning for all of us to be here.

Gordon, one of those pictures really made your eyebrows pop up. Let's see if you can get it back up there. What did you see in that parade that, in a way, may have been a favor to the United States and not just a threat?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Yes. There was a very large canister rolling on a very big transporter erector launcher. It could have been empty. But it also looks like the canister that the Chinese used for their D-31 missile. And if that's the case, we need to start asking some questions of Beijing.

It's not to say that the Chinese gave them the missile, because the North Koreans could have, first of all, had nothing inside; or they could have stolen the missile or got it from somebody else. But this is important. The missiles that North Korea launched on August 24 and February 12 looked like China's JL-1. So it seems like there's a pattern forming. And again, we need to start getting these questions to Beijing.

HARLOW: And Dana, to you, not just the experience of being there with the vice president, having that exclusive interview, but your time on Air Force 2 flying over there with him. You've written about this, you know, his firsthand account of a real surprise that happened. Because just the juxtaposition of having the vice president in the Demilitarized Zone as North Korea is flexing its muscles right there. A show of strength, certainly, by the United States that they'll send him. What happened on Air Force 2?

BASH: That's right. When the vice president took off after refueling, we were on the plane, as well. He refueled in Alaska. It was within an hour that they got word up in the front of the plane where they had communication. We didn't in the back of the plane.

They got word that -- that North Korea had launched a failed missile test. And so this was just staring them in the face as this plane was headed towards the Korean Peninsula where we are now. Now, the vice president and his aides maintained and no reason not to believe them based on all that we've seen from North Korea in the past few weeks, few months and obviously years. They maintain that they expected something along these lines, particularly since the big anniversary where they showed off their new weapons in the parade you were just discussing was on Saturday, the day before -- the day before this test.

So it wasn't a surprise, per se. They tried to downplay it. They were able to do so, because they said that it only lasted in the air about two to three seconds, maybe a little bit more. But it was -- it was a reality check of the kind of challenge that the vice president would personally be facing that we saw all day today, all day Monday at the DMZ and then, you know, talking about, for example, the need for China to get -- to get on board and be more aggressive diplomatically and then two hours later standing next to the South Korean leader, saying that he -- that the United States now supports making the THAAD defense missile system, something that the Chinese oppose, up and running early.

So it just shows the complexities of the military side, the complexities of the diplomatic side and the reason why this can has been kicked down the road for so many administrations in the U.S.

CUOMO: Well, so we have the defensive missile system that's in place in South Korea, which is part of the dynamic of defense. But we also have the dynamic of offense. We heard the most threatening words yet from a United States leader on this issue.

Let's play what Vice President Pence said.


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.


CUOMO: David Gregory, do you see this as an intentional form of brinkmanship?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. I think that there's a signal being sent to the North Korean regime that there's a new administration. Not afraid to use force. I think you're dealing with a madman in North Korea and certainly letting him know that the United States is paying attention in a different way and is ready to bring this to a head in a different way than the predecessors, the last couple of predecessors in the White House. I think it's an important signal. At the same time, the administration, you heard the national security

advisor, McMaster, saying they want to find all ways short of force to resolve this. So I think that's clear is that this administration is engaging on this issue. Very intensely, but on a lot of different levels.

[06:15:09] And I think the pressure that's being put on China is different. Dana and I have covered this issue under previous presidents, including President Bush, who had the same set of challenges in terms of pressuring China; and the response back was we don't want the North Korean regime to collapse. We don't want a stream of refugees coming into the country.

Now this administration, according to experts, is putting more direct pressure on China, saying you, China will face financial and other kind of repercussions if you don't do more to defang North Korea.

So I think all of these working in tandem, as well as whatever might be happening covertly to undermine their weapons systems that may have had some hand in this test failing. All of these things are being brought to bear now, and the fact that the vice president is there is to show of force. It's a very in-your-face show of force and also resolve for South Korea. What's so complicated about this, as you know, Chris, there's really not any targets to hit in North Korea. And we have 37,000 troops in the south, so we're much more vulnerable.

HARLOW: Gordon Chang, to you, David Gregory brings up an important point, and that is, you know, the reporting out of "The New York Times" that the Obama administration had this surge in offensive, essentially, against the missile launches, including through electronic warfare, basically hacking.

So you have that, and then no comment from K.T. McFarland on whether or not that may have played a role in the failed launch over the weekend. This at a time where you describe Kim Jong-un as -- as increasingly unstable and weakened.

How humiliating do you think the failure was this weekend? And do you think that this ramp-up from the Obama administration played any part?

CHANG: Clearly, Kim Jong-un wanted to show the fearsomeness of his missiles, which is the reason why they were highlighted during the Saturday parade. And then to have this failed just three seconds after launch is humiliating; it is embarrassing. He's got to do something else, because he needs an exclamation point at the end of this.

Because internally, with the regime, I think that his is sort of weakening. And so he has a low threshold of risk and, you know, President Trump has a low threshold of the use of force. I can't think of too many things more dangerous.

CUOMO: All right. Appreciate it, panel. Thank you very much. A lot of topics to get to this morning, but this is our main event, what's been going on at the DMZ. President Trump on his own, firing off a new round of his own type of offensive. Tweets. Now he's targeting all those protesters demanding to see his taxes.

Why? And what's his response?


[06:21:52] So President Trump spending Easter Sunday tweeting from Florida about a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues. Let's break it all down with our panel, CNN politics analyst David Gregory is here. David Drucker is here with us, as well, and Abby Phillip. It's nice to have you all here.

David Drucker, let me begin with you. One of the many things -- and we'll get through his tweets this weekend. But one of the many things he tweeted was about these protesters, right, over his tax returns on tax day -- making their voices heard, as many do in a democracy -- "Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over." Indeed, the election is over and he won. We know.

Putting aside the question about why he's talking about the election still, this is at a moment when democracy should be celebrated. Right? When this country is fighting against the powers that be in Syria, in North Korea. You know, frankly, in Russia to some extent. Wasn't this an opportunity for him to say something different about democracy?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And look, let's be clear. Trump supporters really love this stuff. They love for him to go after the media, and they love for him to go after, and they think it's all a big cabal. But I do think that, given what the president himself is now trying to do in the Middle East, vis-a-vis Syria, what you see happening in Turkey. What he's doing to try and reduce the threat from North Korea.

I think he missed a huge opportunity to compare and contrast how things work here with what he's fighting over there. And he could have said, "Look, I think this is great. People in America can do whatever they want, including protest the president. And so, while I may disagree with, you know, what you guys are saying, I totally welcome it. In fact, you know, please stop by any time."

I think that would go a long way in terms of the president expanding his base of support generally and sort of reducing polarization. But it would help him politically, I think, immensely. But again, he's consistent. He's a 70-year-old man. I don't think he's going to change. He won the election doing this. Presidents tend to think whatever they did to win is something they should continue. And so, you know, par for the course. But he did miss a huge opportunity, I think.

CUOMO: So David, do you see this point as just being sloppy or is there just no hope for message discipline? Even as simple a something as saying why would I call China a currency manipulator when they're working with us?

That is just basically owning the fact that was always a lie what Trump was saying when they were a currency manipulator. It ended about a year ago. They've been buying up their currency. He would have known that if he wanted to. Now he has to own the reality. So is this just about sloppiness? Do you believe that the hope for message discipline out of the White House is false hope?

GREGORY: Yes, I think it's false hope. Look, I think there's a couple different of issues there. I think the latter point about the currency manipulation is that he is more than anything else tactical when it comes to dealing with alliances overseas, dealing with foreign countries. And he's showing that. And he's also -- the administration is showing a kind of sobriety and a layered approach that I think has to be commended to deal with some very difficult problems at this point, even as we're in search of an overall strategy.

But I think he's shown that he's willing to pursue different kinds of deals in order to reach some kind of objective. I think the tax issue is different. I think this is an issue that still gets to his desire for legitimacy. And anything that pokes at that, that he's illegitimate, I think he can't help himself. And it's a shame. He should really move on.

HARLOW: So when it comes to this White House and transparency, all White Houses get knocked for it. The Obama administration didn't exactly love or want to release the visitor logs. But eventually, it did.

Now we've learned that the Trump White House is not going to do that. Abby, to you, you know, you look back at the president's Twitter feed, 2012 in June. Here's what he tweeted. "Why is Barack Obama spending millions of dollars to try and hide his record? He's the least transparent president ever, and he ran on transparency. What gives?"

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as they say, life comes at you fast.

In this case, I think Trump is realizing that the rhetoric that he used leading up to this point really is hard to keep up with when you're actually president. This is one of those cases where it's really a shame that the White House abandoned this opportunity. What I think is a pretty simple opportunity to continue the pattern of a past administration and be a little bit more transparent.

What's going to end up happening is they're going to be locked up in litigation for the foreseeable future, as these ethics groups try to get this data out of them. And there is a decent chance that they might win and that they might have to disclose even more information.

I mean, at the end of the day, this is the White House. It is the people's house. It is not President Trump's house. It is a public place. And there is a certain expectation that the public should know who's coming in and out of that building with reasonable withholding, reasonable information for security or privacy reasons. But those concerns, if they exist today, they would have existed six months ago when President Obama was president. So there's really no reason for them not to continue this, unless they want to continue looking as if they are trying to hide something.

GREGORY: Isn't it interesting how different. Here's a president who is so transparent in ways you wouldn't expect. He'll sit down and do all these interviews and tell you exactly what he's thinking, what he's eating at the time that he's thinking it. And yet, whether it's conflicts of interest or the visitor's logs or his taxes, he's unnaturally secretive about them. It's part of the juxtaposition of this White House everybody is still trying to get used to.

CUOMO: He'll talk a lot in interviews, selectively, but it doesn't mean he's being candid. You know, the ho-hum of hypocrisy here has become something that the base seems to ignore. The mayor is trying to figure out how to deal with effectively on an ongoing basis. But "SNL" couldn't love it any more than they do. Here is their latest sample of their take on the president.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR (AS DONALD TRUMP): Jared, Steve, standing before me are my two top advisers. I only have one photo in my hand. That's right. Tonight is elimination night. There's been a lot of drama in the house, and that's OK. But one of you must go. Now, if you do not see your photo, you must immediately leave the Oval Office and join Kellyanne Conway in the basement.

The person that will stay on as my top adviser is Jared!


CUOMO: Jimmy Fallon playing Kushner as someone who doesn't speak. He never said a word during any of that. What was your reaction, David Drucker?

DRUCKER: It was actually an accurate depiction of how this thing will go if this battle continues, because Trump...

CUOMO: Yes, that's probably the actually process. You think it's going to come down to a photo, two men at arms?

DRUCKER: First of all, Trumps likes the visuals and the theatricals. Although I was joking, you're making me think now.

You're never going to -- Chris, we've discussed this. You're never going to beat family. Jared Kushner is family. And that's where Bannon is always going to be lacking in this competition.

HARLOW: All right.

Quick reaction from David.

GREGORY: I love the line that I heard about Jared Kushner going to Iraq in the sports jacket and the flask. It's called glamoflauge.

CUOMO: Very nicely done. Abby, quick finish.

PHILLIP: I truly think that they captured perfectly this element where Trump really loves to keep his White House and his team like a reality TV show. I mean, maybe he doesn't like firing people, but he definitely likes making them fight for their spot in his good graces.

HARLOW: Who's going to -- who's going to play Gary Cohn?

CUOMO: I have no idea. I just hope it's good. All right. Thank you very much to the panel.

So we've been dealing with North Korea and the White House response to this situation. There's another big story this morning. A suspected killer is on the run in Ohio right now. This man posted a video of a murder on Facebook. The manhunt expanding now to at least four other states. A live report next.