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North Korean Missile Explodes after Launch; Reviewing Trump ahead of First Milestone; Trump's Unconventional Foreign Policy; Pope Francis to Celebrate Mass in Military Stadium. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2017 - 02:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): International condemnation over North Korea's latest missile test as the U.S. president warns that a major conflict is possible.

President Trump campaigning on eradicating ISIS 100 days into his presidency, we'll assess his policy toward the terror group.

And praying for peace. We're live in Cairo, where Pope Francis is going to lead mass for Egypt's Christians, who have been the target of ISIS attacks.

Hello I'm Lynda Kinkade live from Atlanta. Thanks so much for joining us. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


KINKADE: On Donald Trump's 100th day in office, an imminent challenge from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Early Saturday local time, North Korea fired another ballistic missile. South Korea says it exploded several minutes later.

It comes as the U.S. Navy strike group led by the U.S.S. Carl Vinson was finally spotted off the coast of Japan. We get the latest now from CNN's Will Ripley, the only U.S. television correspondent currently in Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the music that plays almost hourly here in Pyongyang, reminding citizens of the sacrifices of their late leaders. The outside world may view this missile launch as a failure but here inside North Korea, most people will never hear about it and North Korea's rocket scientists may not see it as a failure because, with each launch, whether it's a success or not, they gain valuable intelligence.

This particular missile they were trying to launch is the kind that could someday be used to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier like the Carl Vinson, which is approaching the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

So perhaps overshadowing the launch itself is the strong message North Korea is sending to its enemies.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea attempting to launch another ballistic missile. Its ninth launch attempt since President Trump took office. A U.S. official tells CNN the land-based ballistic missile exploded over land shortly after launch. A defiant response to mounting international pressure.

It's clear this is a regime with something to prove. The Korean People's Army calling Tuesday's live fire drill their largest ever. Long range artillery by the hundreds, submarines, bombers.

Earlier this month staging this massive military parade, unveiling what North Korea says are new missiles, trying and failing to launch one the very next day.

On the ground, it's clear to us this is an attempt to look tough, all of it choreographed for the world and regular North Koreans. State TV defiantly threatening to strike back against the U.S. with force.

North Korea furious about ongoing joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, just miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. Exercises always infuriate the regime but tensions are at their highest level in years. North Korea uncertain about the Trump administration's next move.

Government officials in Pyongyang telling CNN there is an imminent and growing threat of all-out war with the United States. State mouthpiece KCNA warning, in case a war breaks out on the peninsula, the U.S. will be held wholly accountable for it, no matter who made the preemptive attack.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president telling Reuters the U.S. won't rule out the military option but, quote, "we'd love to solve things diplomatically."

Also expressing a degree of empathy for North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: He is 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime. So, say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president later clarifying he is not praising the North Korean leader. Kim has ramped up North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, launching more missiles than the two previous leaders combined. The growing threat of a nuclear North Korea, the focus of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea says it's -- [02:05:00]

RIPLEY (voice-over): -- only a matter of time before they test more nuclear weapons and launch more missiles, also insisting they're more than ready for whatever happens next.

RIPLEY: There is always a lot of confusion in the early hours of these launches. Initially the U.S. thought the missile traveled 15 minutes, then they changed that and said that it exploded over North Korean territory. But in South Korea military analysts say it still reached of an altitude of 71 kilometers, around 44 miles, showing that North Korea was able to get this ballistic missile up and they will work to perfect the distance for the next go -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


KINKADE: The U.S. president was briefed about the missile launch aboard Air Force One. Donald Trump sent out a tweet saying North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected president when it launches, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad.

Let's bring in Daniel Pinkston. He is a professor of international relations at Troy University and an expert on North Korea and he joins us via Skype from Seoul.

Great to have you with us. This latest missile test comes on the eve of Donald Trump's 100 days in office.

What should we make of the timing of this test?

DANIEL PINKSTON, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Well, it also occurred during the meeting at the U.N. that Secretary Tillerson attended, of course. So it's a signal of defiance and resolve.

The timing was to demonstrate that signal. North Korea says that it will not be stopped. They will continue to develop these capabilities. And they're also signaling their resolve, that, in case of any conflict or escalation, that they will use these systems if necessary.

KINKADE: Now North Korea's mission to the U.N. has released a statement basically blaming the U.S. for pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. It went on to say that the U.S. is deceiving the public because America is spending $1 trillion dollars to upgrade its own nuclear weapons.

What should we make of that statement?

PINKSTON: The North Korean foreign ministry and their media, their literature is very consistent. They have a world view that describes the capitalist core or the United States as being aggressive and imperialistic.

They say this is a constant in the international system and that the U.S. seeks to invade and enslave the North Koreans. And so that's problematic. Any type of cooperative security or negative security assurances for North Korea is not viewed as credible.

But I must say that in the past day or so, the president has introduced some complexities or problems or has made it more difficult for the military commanders in the Pacific and in Korea to sustain the armistice and to provide extended deterrence. Some of the statements called into question the U.S. resolve and U.S. credibility. Koreans here in South Korea were pretty upset about the statements on THAAD, the missile defense system.

And the president asked South Korea to pay $1 billion dollars even though this was settled in a status of forces agreement and so forth. So there's a lot of confusion and uncertainty. And I would argue that that increases the likelihood of conflict.

KINKADE: It was interesting that the president did criticize South Korea for not paying for that equipment.

Is there any chance, do you think, that South Korea will pay for some of it?

PINKSTON: South Korea has the ability to pay more and I personally believe they should pay more. But they have been contributing to the stationing of U.S. troops in South Korea since 1991.

There's a bilateral agreement called a special measures agreement, SMA agreement, that is a five-year agreement. The last one was signed in 2014. It will expire in 2018.

There's also a status of forces agreement that provides for all of this stationing of troops and assets and so forth. So there's a mechanism for handling that. It's not a one-off business deal. So there are channels for managing those issues and managing the alliance.

But it's difficult when there's no South Korean ambassador or American ambassador here in South Korea and hundreds of positions in the State Department, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies are unfilled. So it's difficult to manage these issues with our alliance partners.

KINKADE: I'd love to continue the discussion but we'll have to leave it there for now. Professor Daniel Pinkston, thank you so much for your time today.

PINKSTON: My pleasure.

KINKADE: President Trump hasn't achieved everything on his campaign wish list as he mounts 100 days in office. But as that reality became apparatus, he downplayed the importance --


KINKADE: -- of the milestone, one that he touted himself as his contract with the American voter. Still, he recorded a message from the White House for the occasion and he says everything is going smoothly.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country's history. My administration has brought profound change to Washington.

The most fundamental change can be found in the relationship between the people and their government. For too long politicians cared more about special interests than they did about a very successful future for all Americans. They took our taxpayers' money and sent their jobs and wealth to other countries.


KINKADE: Earlier I spoke with Republican and CNN commentator Ben Ferguson as well as Democratic strategist Jonathan Tasini. We talked about the achievements and failures of Trump's first 100 days in office. Here's our discussion.


BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think probably for his supporters certainly the biggest achievement is going to be, one, the economy and, at the same time, the Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch, getting him on the Supreme Court. That was a big victory for him.

I think the biggest shortfall right now is still ObamaCare, repeal and replace. The president has had a reset on that with Congress. They're still working on this, not putting an arbitrary deadline as they did last time of trying to rush this in 17 days. That was a big, big, big failure by Paul Ryan.

Now it seems they've got their game together a little bit more and they're working together to hear everybody's concerns. And they'll probably get a vote on this so I think that's probably where he's got to prove by the end of this year that he can get a deal done on that, on health care. Otherwise many people up for reelection in two years or a year and a half now, they are going to be in serious trouble.

KINKADE: Absolutely.

Jonathan, to you, biggest failure, biggest achievement?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'll start with the biggest achievement, which I believe I'll agree with Ben on one, which is Gorsuch, ramming him onto the Supreme Court. Essentially, the Republicans stole that Supreme Court seat.

FERGUSON: Not ramming it.

TASINI: And --


TASINI: And you will remember, going back, Lynda, and your international viewers remember that Obama tried to appoint someone, Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court and essentially Mitch McConnell blocked that. So it was an achievement; they stole that seat. That was an achievement, I have to give them credit.

On the economy, I mean, 0.7 percent growth in the first three months, Donald Trump has been a failure, as he has been a failure in business. On the failures, I would say, the failures I would say, Lynda, are actually good things.

Donald Trump is a hardcore bigot and racist. And one of the things that happened which he failed which is the travel ban, which attacked people of faith, Muslims, all over the world, many of your viewers, that was a failure. And the reason that was a failure is that people are rising up in this country, people are rebelling, they flooded into airports and they really forced the attorney general of Washington State to take a step to block that. And I think that was a failure but a good failure for America.

KINKADE: So far in the first 100 days, we've seen a lot of protests. President Trump continues to have the lowest approval rating of any president in the first 100 days. He had no political experience coming into this but in a very candid interview with Reuters, he reflected on his first 100 days as commander in chief.

Let's just take a listen to what he had to say.


TRUMP: I loved my previous life. I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. I actually -- this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.


KINKADE: "I thought it would be easier."

Was he a little bit naive going into this job?

TASINI: Well, if you're asking me, let me offer Donald Trump -- I'm willing to offer Donald Trump some career advice. If he would like to resign the presidency and leave us in peace and allow this country to actually flower, I am willing to work with him to get him back to his previous life.

I mean, this was kind of funny, Lynda. You may remember it's happened a couple of times, at least when it came to health care. All of a sudden, one day. I can't remember what it was in the health care debates, he said, you know what, health care is really difficult. I was really surprised by that.

Which was kind of shocking because all of us, I've been involved in health care policy, health care fight for 25 years. And Donald Trump, all of a sudden, one day woke up and realized it was tough. And the last thing I'll say and then turn it over Ben, it's partly because he's a complete ignoramus and had no idea, had no sense of domestic and foreign policy so he walks into a very complicated job and says, oh, my God, this is a difficult job.

KINKADE: I have to say, Ben, he has been surprised about how complicated some policies have been.

FERGUSON: There's two things here. If you look at tonight, we just talked about the first 100 days --


FERGUSON: -- Democrats are still calling him a bigot, racist homophobe, hates Muslims, everything else. It's the same playbook that they had --


FERGUSON: -- and allowed him to become President of the United States of America. So I hope Democrats keep coming up with the same talking points for the next four years.

TASINI: And Hillary Clinton had 3 million votes. We know that.

FERGUSON: Again, again, we know how the election turned out. You guys can counter that and say that somehow it was not fair but it was a fair and free election and you just lost because you had a candidate that was untrustworthy and Democrats said that.

Now, let me get back to this other thing real quick about Donald Trump and his comments about the job.

Look, I think anybody that goes to Washington that's been in the private sector probably thinks that Washington is going to work a little bit better than it does. There's a reason why Congress, whether Nancy Pelosi's the Speaker of the House or Paul Ryan or John Boehner or any -- Harry Reid's in charge of the Senate, consistently have an approval rating of about 9 percent to 12 percent.

They are awful --


TASINI: What you're forgetting is no president, no president, Democrat or Republican, has come into the White House and said, oh, my God, this is a difficult job. They understood it was complicated.

KINKADE: All right, gentlemen, I'm going to have to leave it there, I'm afraid. Jonathan Tasini and Ben Ferguson, always a pleasure to have you both on. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Plenty more to talk about on the next 100 days, no doubt.

Thank you.

TASINI: All right, Lynda. Thank you. Thanks, Ben.


KINKADE: Fun discussion there.

Still ahead, President Trump said no one would be tougher on ISIS than him. We'll see how his plans for fighting ISIS are working out as he marks 100 days in office.





DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Beijing. You know, many are saying that President Trump has done a 180-degree turn on China in 100 days. He said he would name China a currency manipulator on day one. He hasn't.

He questioned the One China policy and then reaffirmed the U.S. policy that Taiwan is a part of China. And he said that China was being weak on North Korea. Now he says China is helping him pressurize Pyongyang.

Trump says he's not a flip-flopper. He says he's trying to get the best deal for the American people.


KINKADE: Donald Trump talked tough on ISIS when he was running for U.S. president, promising to, quote, "bomb those suckers" until there was nothing left. A bold statement.

But does it match his actual strategy now that he's in office?

Nick Paton Walsh in Iraq analyzes Mr. Trump's record.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He said nobody would be tougher on them.

TRUMP: I would bomb the (INAUDIBLE) out of them.



WALSH: But 100 days in, how are ISIS doing under Trump?

In Iraq, they're losing badly. Now controlling only 7 percent of it, down from over a third. Several civilian casualty incidents have led to questions whether Trump has eased rules of engagement, made it easier to bomb.

Yet in West Mosul, civilians are so frequently caught in the crossfire or dragged into it by ISIS, the higher death toll was always a risk at the fight's bitter end.

WALSH (on camera): You can see the problem. These Iraqi police and army have in streets as tight as this where, frankly, any item around them could be a booby trap, any roof could have an ISIS sniper on it.

WALSH (voice-over): But is this retreat down to Trump?

Not really. You will struggle to find officials who say it isn't just the same plan the Obama Pentagon put together being followed through.

And then there's Syria.

WALSH: Trump's decision to launch strikes against its regime for using chemical weapons possibly complicated the fight against ISIS. By making a clear enemy of the regime, who were, on paper, at least, also fighting ISIS.

But the plans to retake their capital city, Raqqa, moving along fast, regardless, coalition-backed fighters set to encircle it from the south.

ABU BAKR AL BAGHDADI, ISIS LEADER: (Speaking foreign language)

WALSH (voice-over): But the ultimate symbolic prize, the capture or death of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, eludes them.

WALSH: Do you think Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is still in Mosul or Greater Mosul?

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDING GENERAL, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: Well, I sure hope he is. I don't think he is. I sure hope he is because, if he is, we've got him trapped. I'd like to see his end. I'd like to see his end in Mosul.

WALSH: Where's your best pointer of where he is right now?

WALSH (voice-over): Elsewhere, like in Afghanistan, they are on the rise. His commandos deploying the MOAB, the largest nonnuclear bomb the U.S. has ever dropped in anger and a strategic review is under way.

But there aren't really any new options in America's longest war. Just more of the same. And still the Taliban, are the bigger problem. But it's hard to know how Trump, or anyone, can fight ISIS's most enduring threat, the idea. Transferable now indefinitely, online, inspiring deranged thugs from London to Paris. Defeating that idea requires a better one and nobody's found that yet -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Irbil, Northern Iraq.


KINKADE: Still to come, Pope Francis is standing against violence in the name of religion as he makes a historic visit to Egypt.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Pope Francis has been praying for the victims of ISIS during his trip to Egypt. He joined Coptic Pope Tirudurus II (ph) at a Cairo church where the terror group had killed more than 2 dozen people in December last year.

The pope is stressing the need for religious tolerance in building peace. Our Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, joins me now from Cairo.

Delia, Egypt is still under a state of emergency. We've seen several attacks by ISIS carried out against Christians there. Give us a sense of this security situation for the pope.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lynda, you know, from the Egyptian side, obviously, they --


GALLAGHER: -- want this trip to go well. You see an increased military and police presence all along the streets.

When the pope travels, the streets are shut down and in the area where he is staying. So there is a heavy security presence here. But of course from the Vatican side they say we're not worried about it. They say it's business as usual. The pope is traveling in a regular, normal, unarmored car. He'll be saying mass in about 1.5 hours and he'll travel around an open air stadium there in a golf cart.

So from Pope Francis' perspective, his personal security, as it were, takes second place to the opportunity to come and be with people, for whom personal security is a kind of daily way of life. So that's what he's doing here So far, the trip has been very good. He'll be doing mass in about an hour and a half then he's meeting with some Catholic seminarians after that.

And then he heads back to Rome, a quick two-day visit to Cairo -- Lynda.

KINKADE: A quick visit but a very historic visit. He's only the second pope to travel to Egypt. And he's not just meeting with Christians but he's also met with majority Muslim leaders there.

GALLAGHER: In fact, he was invited here by the grand imam of al- Azhar. Al-Azhar is the preeminent center for Sunni Islam. So for the Vatican, it is a very important dialogue partner in terms of the interpretation of the Quran, in terms of fighting and condemning any kind of violence in the name of God.

And in fact act, Pope Francis yesterday at a peace conference at Al- Azhar University, spoke to the Muslim leaders there about the importance of the education, especially, he said, of future generations in a path for peace and the idea of all religions coming together to condemn violence in the name of God.

So that is one of the primary reasons, as you mentioned; the other is to visit the Christian minority community here -- Lynda.

KINKADE: We're looking at some pictures of quite a warm embrace between the pope and the Muslim leader, quite incredible scenes there.

Any indication yet on the sort of turnout that we can expect today, given that Christians are the minority there in Egypt?

GALLAGHER: That's right. There's about a 10 percent Christian population here. It's a majority Muslim country. As you mentioned, those Christians are mainly Coptic orthodox. So there's also a Coptic Catholic part of this Coptic Christian community. And they are the ones who will mainly be at the mass today, the Vatican says there is about 150,000-200,000 total Catholics in Egypt. The stadium can hold about 30,000. So there will be a small but important group of Catholics there to say hello to their pope -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Wonderful. All right, Delia Gallagher, great to have you with us. We'll check in with you again very soon Thank you.

And thanks, everyone, for joining us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.