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North Korea Threat; Top Catholic Official Charged with Sex Offenses; Russia Investigation; U.S. Health Care Reform; Venezuela: Stolen Helicopter Found, Pilot on Run; Cardinal Speaks Out About Sex Abuse Charge; N. Korean Nuclear Program Expected to Dominate Trump- Moon Talks. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 02:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, tough talk from the Trump administration over North Korea, a key Defense official says all options are on the table.

VAUSE (voice-over): Plus one of the most senior members of the Catholic Church and a top adviser to Pope Francis is charged over multiple allegations of sexual assault.

NEWTON (voice-over): And protests and arrests as Chinese president Xi Jinping makes his first official visit to Hong Kong.

VAUSE (voice-over): Thank you for joining us. This is now the third hour of NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause.

NEWTON (voice-over): And I'm Paula Newton. This is NEWSROOM L.A.


NEWTON: Chinese president Xi Jinping is making his first visit to Hong Kong as president. Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of China's takeover of Hong Kong. On Saturday, Mr. Xi will swear in Hong Kong's new chief executive, Carrie Lam.


VAUSE (voice-over): Security is tight for Xi's visit. About 2 dozen protesters were arrested at the site where official ceremonies will be held. Many had chained themselves to a large statue of a golden flower.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now live from Hong Kong.

And, Ivan, clearly many there are asking what's the point, what is there to celebrate on this 20th anniversary. IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm with a group of Hong Kongers who are celebrating this 20th anniversary. This is a small cultural celebration with signs that say congratulations on 20 years. This is a welcome sign to Xi Jinping, the leader who's making his first visit to this city, this former British colony.

And we've got some songs and dancing taking place on the stage behind us. This is a big deal because this is not a typical Chinese city; this is a former British colony with a different system from the rest of China.

And Xi Jinping in his opening remarks at the airport here mentioned that, which is going to be important to a lot of Hong Kongers who are concerned about the future of this city. Take a listen to what Xi Jinping had to say.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): I want to make sure one country, two systems, can work smoothly and continue. I'm looking forward to seeing with my own eyes the new developments and changes to Hong Kong in the recent years.


WATSON: Now, John, the people here are very happy about this. One woman told me that she is very patriotic, she is very proud. But beyond this circle of people everybody I've spoken to in Hong Kong kind of reacts to this 20th anniversary with a bit of a shrug if not outright disdain.

And that's because a lot of Hong Kongers don't closely associate with Mainland China. This is a city that's had a very different history; in fact, according to a recent poll, a large majority of those who answered, who are young Hong Kongers, between 18-29, only 3 percent of them identified as Chinese versus being part of Hong Kong.

And that's part of the unusual identity of Hong Kong versus the rest of Mainland China -- John.

VAUSE: So Ivan, while Mr. Xi is emphasizing his commitment to the one country, two system deal, Beijing in the past in particular Mr. Xi in the past has made it clear that that autonomy only goes so far, that there are limits.

WATSON: There are. And we're standing very close to where in 2014 protesters held an occupy protest that held the downtown area for some two months before they eventually fizzled out.

This is a city that has freedom of the press, freedom to criticize the government and the ruling Communist Party, that you simply don't have on Mainland China.

Down the street here is a protest of the banned Falun Gong movement that's banned in Mainland China. And so some of the opposition, some of the vows from opposition activists to stage protests, these three days during Xi Jinping's visit, it's because they're concerned about the future of those freedoms and that's part of why some 11,000 police reportedly are being deployed to try to make sure that those public shows of dissent are kept very far away from the leader of China.

VAUSE: Sounds like a fun three days, Ivan Watson there in Hong Kong, appreciate it, Ivan, thank you.

NEWTON: U.S. President Donald Trump wants to be --


NEWTON: -- prepared, he says, in case North Korea carries out another nuclear test or missile launch. National security adviser H.R McMaster says military options are updated and are ready to go if needed.

VAUSE: U.S. Defense officials say there's growing concern about North Korea's ability to attack the United States and to keep missile tests undetected until the last minute.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The threat is much more immediate now. And so it's clear that we can't repeat the same approach, failed approach of the past. The president has directed us to not to do that and to prepare a range of options, including a military option, which nobody wants to take.

There's a recognition that there has to be more pressure on the regime and I think what you'll see you in coming days and weeks are efforts to do that.



VAUSE: Joining me now from Seoul, John Delury is an assistant professor at Yonsei University.

John, thank you for being with us. It used to be the world was always guessing about North Korea's intentions. So it seems to almost mixed messages coming from the Trump administration.

That seems to be a bigger challenge right now. First we have diplomacy, then China then Trump wants to meet with Kim Jong-un; maybe he doesn't. And now military options.

JOHN DELURY, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's right. I mean it's been difficult to determine the signal from the noise in terms of what the administration wants to do with North Korea and I think they're still feeling their way. I don't think they've figured out, you know, how to approach it.

I think one of the key pieces as always here is you have to be in some level of dialogue with the North Koreans diplomatically to know where they are and where there's room or not. So it's good that there has been, because of the tragic case of Otto Warmbier, there have been at least some preliminary contacts between the United States and the North Korean government.

But, you know, you can't create these strategies in a vacuum if they're serious about diplomacy and negotiation as one part of this. Then, you know, that has to start with actually sitting down with the North Koreans.

VAUSE: Just looking at this military options, which are now being looked at in a serious way, when you hear that, what do you think?

What is the range of military options which is possible when it comes to North Korea?

DELURY: You know, there -- it's really not an option in the sense that people talk about it because, you know, you hear people discuss preemptive strikes or surgical strikes. North Korea is way too far along in terms of developing these capabilities, both having a nuclear weapons arsenal of -- we don't know how much over but most estimates are in -- above 20 weapons, which, of course, you know, they don't leave lying out there for an American military strike.

And then, you know, as you know from the relentless pace of their missile testing, they have a -- they have a well-developed missile program that can deliver those weapons to various targets.

So you don't have this option militarily of removing the problem and you compound that with the fact that, once you strike North Korea, they're going to strike back, you know.

And they've got a long list of civilian populations, dense populations here in Seoul, other targets in the region, major transportation nodes -- these are major economic, you know, circuits that they can hit relatively easily.

So they can do massive -- as Secretary Mattis said, you know, you can -- you can trigger something tragic on an unbelievable scale, which was his term. And you know, at that point basically the United States has to -- has to step down because I don't think the United States, certainly South Korea is not interested in a full-scale war on Korean Peninsula --


DELURY: so it's quite bleak when you talk about these military options.

VAUSE: And just putting it out there, just saying it's now being under serious consideration, how does that raise the threat level here?

What will be the response from North Korea?

DELURY: I don't think it's so new the Trump administration has done this before. If you remember, just in April, we were all talking about military options; of course, militaries themselves are constantly refreshing their planning, including offensive strikes (INAUDIBLE).

It's being sort of played up and this could be -- we could be entering a new cycle here, where, after a lull, the Trump administration goes back to this threat of military action.

I think that one positive, if you want to say, is it gives the whole issue urgency and that's something that the national security advisor, McMaster, was also trying to say, that we can continue with so-called strategic patience. This is not a problem that's going to solve itself.

And the kind of quick fix to get people to focus is to say, look, if we don't do something we're going to go to war. But as he also said, no one wants to go to war and it's not in our interest to go to war.


DELURY: So in some ways I think this is frankly a bit contrived, to get people to focus on the problem, the Chinese, the American public but, ultimately, if you want to talk about real solutions, they involve diplomacy and negotiation. They do not involve military strikes.

VAUSE: Very quickly, some have likened the situation with North Korea to a slow-moving Cuban missile crisis. Once that was over, President Kennedy said there was one central lesson from the standoff with the Soviet Union. Listen to this.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Above all, by defending our own vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.

To adopt that kind of cost in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy or of a collective death wish for the world.


VAUSE: He said it 54 years ago but is there a lesson there for President Trump?

DELURY: Well, there's a lesson in that (INAUDIBLE) to be sure. It is good to hear John F. Kennedy's words and, you know, we hear this analogy, it -- in some sense it makes no sense; the whole point of the Cuban missile crisis is it was this compacted, intense thing; whereas we have the exact opposite problem with North Korea.

This is a prolonged issue; it's been 20 years, 30 years in the making. We need to think about solutions that deal with it in a 20-year timeframe. It's not something that, as the president said, can be solved rapidly. We, unfortunately, are going to have to make a lot of compromises and chip away at it in a gradual process.

VAUSE: John, good to speak with you, John Delury there in Seoul. We appreciate your insights and your expertise. Thank you.


NEWTON: Now one of the leading figures in the Catholic Church has been charged with historic sex offenses. Australian police say there are multiple charges and multiple complainants against Cardinal George Pell. Now he strenuously denies the allegations.

Our Anna Coren has been following this from Hong Kong.

And, Anna, in terms of the allegations themselves, do we understand that the cardinal will be returning to Australia to face them?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, certainly Victorian police have said as much, that he must return to face those charges on the 18th of July in Melbourne's magistrates' court.

I think what's interesting here, though, is that that we've heard from the Sydney archdiocese. They've released a statement saying, on behalf of Cardinal Pell, saying that he will return to Australia as soon as possible to clear his name, following advice and approval by his doctors, who will also advise on his travel arrangements, that he is looking forward to his day in court to defend the charges vigorously.

Now, Paula, regarding whether he's fit to fly, I should make mention that last year, during a royal commission into the mishandling of the church and sexual abuse is Australia, George Pell refused to return to Australia; instead, he testified from a hotel room in Rome, which really angered survivors of sexual abuse who, instead, decided to travel to Rome to confront the cardinal.

But this is a man who is incredibly powerful within the church and some would say has been protected by the church for decades. He went from a lowly priest to bishop, to archbishop of Melbourne and then of Sydney.

And he is now in the Vatican as one of the most powerful people. He advises the pope. He sits on a council, a nine-member council, which addresses such issues like sexual abuse.

So this has certainly sent shockwaves not just -- sent shockwaves around the Vatican but not -- but also around the world.

But let's have a listen to what the police commissioner in Australia, Shane Patton (ph), had to say, addressing the media this morning.


Good morning. Today, Victoria police have charged Cardinal George Pell (INAUDIBLE) sexual assault offenses. Cardinal Pell has been charged on (INAUDIBLE) and he's required to appear at the Melbourne magistrates' court on the 18th of July this year for a filing hearing.

The charges were today served on Cardinal Pell's legal representatives in Melbourne and have been lodged also at the Melbourne magistrates' court. Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect to the (INAUDIBLE) sexual offenses and there are multiple complainants relating to those charges.


COREN: So, Paula, as I said, Cardinal Pell has certainly faced accusations of covering up sexual abuse within the church back in Australia. But as far as charges against himself, well, they have never materialized until now.

He is expected to obviously step aside whilst he fights those charges --


COREN: -- and this is really going to be a test for Pope Francis because there is no extradition treaty between Australia and the Vatican, on whether he is going to force Cardinal Pell to head back to Australia next month to face those charges.

NEWTON: He has always said that he has zero tolerance for those who are complicit in such crimes. Anna Coren, a story we'll continue to follow. Appreciate it.

VAUSE: And a short break here. When we come back, President Trump promising a big surprise on health care reform. He could also end up negotiating with Democrats. That probably is not the big surprise.

NEWTON: Ha, ha.

Plus Venezuela's president says an attack on the supreme court was a coup attempt. Some people think it's a distraction. The reason why just ahead.




VAUSE: Welcome back.

The U.S. national security adviser is delivering a stark new warning on North Korea.

NEWTON: H.R McMaster says that the threat of a nuclear test or missile attack from Pyongyang is much more immediate now. So President Trump has been presented with updated military options.


VAUSE: For more now on North Korean issues confronting the White House, we're joined here in Los Angeles by Democratic strategist Matthew Littman and in San Diego, talk radio host Gina Loudon.

Good to see you both.

This may come as a surprise to you but now it seems that the issue of North Korea, some Democrats are questioning the president's ability to cope with the situation. Listen to this.


REP. JIM HIMES (D), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I don't know why today is so important. North Korea is a very, very serious threat but I got to tell you it makes me nervous when you hear rhetoric beginning to be ratcheted up.

And the person who was hearing that rhetoric is not necessarily stable and calm. So this is -- I'm not quite sure what the White House's game here is. But I hope they know what they're doing.


VAUSE: So, Matt, first up to you. If you don't have a lot of faith in the commander in chief right now, do you at least have faith in those around him, McMaster, the Defense Secretary?

And is that enough in a situation like this?

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the president is supposed to be the commander in chief so, no, it's not enough. We need to have confidence in the president and the problem is that they're ratcheting up the language not just with North Korea but with Syria as well.

And also the fact that Russia did a cyber attack on the United States on our electoral process and there will really do nothing about that.

So we keep ramping up with North Korea and Syria but no one really seems to know what the endgame is here. There's no great policy behind all of this. And I think that's what's making a lot of people nervous, that the president himself has no real policy when it comes to North Korea and Syria.

That's a problem right now.

VAUSE: So, Gina, what's the policy here?

GINA LOUDON, TALK RADIO HOST: The policy here is that this president knows how to lead, contrary to our last administration, who stepped behind and nobody can ever count on really what he said.

This president is a known leader and he's a proven leader. He's kept his campaign promises. He's been --


LOUDON: -- bold. He's been decisive. He's very clearheaded contrary to what detractors might say. And he doesn't go out there and brag about what he's going to do.

He's very unclear about it and that should be the policy of a responsible administration, to leave everything on the table so that the decisions are then his and that of those around him, who are the experts and who have the intelligence, by the way, that we don't have.

LITTMAN: Well, John, let me just -- I'm sorry; the president is supposed to be --


LITTMAN: -- the president is supposed to be an expert on this, not just the military folks. But the president is supposed to be an expert, too. And to say that he is not to tell anybody what the policies, well, that's not working out.

Syria still has chemical weapons. North Korea's still belligerent. We don't know what the administration's policy is. Everybody would like to hear it. It's not just the United States but the world that needs to hear what the president's policy is.

The problem is that there is none at this point.

NEWTON: But Matthew, doesn't it strengthen his hand by just saying that there are military options out there?

I mean taking what a lot of scholars have said, no, there are no good military options on the table. But Matthew, come on. At a certain point in time, North Korea may listen to a Trump administration, where it did not heed any warnings from the Obama administration.

LITTMAN: Well, the -- there's no reason to suggest that what you're saying is true because North Korea keeps ratcheting this up and has not slowed down at all. They've gone in the opposite direction. They've been speeding things up and the administration -- no one is really looking for a military strike by the United States or North Korea.

This won't solve all the problems then North Korea can go and attack Seoul. There is no great solution here. But I do agree that North Korea is about the biggest threat that the United States -- that we find in the United States right now. We need to have some clarity.

But is there any clarity?

I mean, you tell me. I don't see any.

VAUSE: Matt, you mentioned the whole Russia investigation.

And, Gina, to you, administration sources are telling us that many within the Trump administration are very frustrated because they cannot convince the president to take the threat posed by Russia and continues to be posed by Russia as serious.

So why, Gina, won't the president do anything and why won't he take this seriously about Russian hacking? LOUDON: Well, it isn't this president that didn't take all foreign hackers seriously. It was our last president that apparently knew about this and for political reasons didn't choose to address it.

On the contrary, though, don't forget, John, that I believe it was just this week or last week this president assembled even some of his own political enemies within the tech industry to address the hacking problems.

That proves that this president is not only committed to meeting this problem head-on of any sort of foreign interference in any of our elections, which, by the way, have never resulted any vote changes, as you know, but it proves also that he's even willing to work out who may not have been allies in the past.

So this is a sort of diplomacy as well out of this president. And I think it's very encouraging to those of us who want to know that we are free from foreign hackers of any sort in any of our sort of systems.

NEWTON: We want to go now to former U.S. ambassador to NATO, John (sic) Burns, he made some startling remarks in from the Senate committee. What was really interesting too is that he pulled no punches for either president, former president or current. Take a listen.


NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It is his duty, President Trump's, to be skeptical of Russia. It's his duty to investigate and defend our country against cyber offensive because Russia is our most dangerous adversary in the world today.

And if he continues to refuse to act, it's a dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country and Russia's going to do this again.


NEWTON: Matthew, this is the point here, Russia is going to do this again and many people have been saying that they want to see that they're not happy with President Obama, as he was as he has said prior in that testimony but also as we've been hearing that even people within the Trump administration are saying he needs to take this seriously and he needs to do more.

What is going to move the needle there in terms of actually getting people to make sure that the next tack won't be more insidious?

LITTMAN: Yes, it's very strange. Also remember when Trump came in, he said that within 90 days he'd have this big cyber security plan. That was by April. And it never happened.

But also there's the fact that Trump won't admit that Russia did all the stuff that they did with our electoral process last year, while everybody else is talking about it. Trump, for some reason, won't admit it. And he wants less sanctions on Russia, not more. So in terms of convincing Trump, you can convince Trump what to do, to be strong against Russia. It's just not going to happen because he takes it as an ego thing, that you're telling him that the won the election and that election was tainted.

So he won't do that with Russia for that reason. Now the rest of us, everybody else in the country knows that Russia not only attacked the united states but it's tried this in France and other places around the world.


LITTMAN: It's only going to get worse. I think the frustration in the administration with Congress, with Trump on this is really starting to boil over now. And I think that we're going to see more of that in the coming days.

Congress is really furious that the administration wants less sanctions on Russia while I think Congress voted 98-2 for tougher sanctions.

VAUSE: OK, let's just finish up here very quickly because just when you thought the Republican draft plan to health care was dead, the president says, not so fast.


TRUMP: Health care is working along very well. We're going to have a big surprise with a great health care package. So now they're happy.



TRUMP: -- great, great surprise. It's going to be great. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) surprise? Universal health care for everybody?

LOUDON: I kind of doubt that, John. You know, it's a shame that some out there are distracted with something that the American people, according to the new Harvard poll, don't even think is a safe thing to be talking about and that is the whole Russia conspiracy theory; 73 percent of Americans polled in that new survey -- I believe it came out yesterday, the Harvard Harris (ph) poll, said that they think it's damaging and distracting (ph) from other issues like health and other things that this administration is dedicated to.

But not only that, to me it's sad that the Democrats have demonstrated that they're going to continue to be solely obstructionist to this administration and the agenda that the American people elected this administration to pursue.

You know, if the Democrats were to come to the table for example, the president would be having meetings with them about what elements perhaps of this bill that they would like to include.

But instead --


NEWTON: -- we can tell from your expression --

LITTMAN: Listen, this is a crazy answer. I'm sorry, Gina, but the Republicans did this behind closed doors with just Republicans. Trump hasn't made a call to a Democrat to ask them to support this. This is the way the Republicans chose to do it.

And when --

LOUDON: That's not true. That's not true --


LITTMAN: -- when you say that Trump was elected to do this, just remember that this is favored by about 17 percent of the American people. The Republican and Trump health care plan has no support in the United States so far.

So to say that this is what he's elected to do --

LOUDON: -- poll --

LITTMAN: -- nobody wants it. Every single poll -- Google, use the thing called Google --


LITTMAN: -- poll numbers.


LOUDON: -- election last week in Georgia that was supposed to be a litmus test, remember, Matthew?

And I think the American people have been speaking clearly in those special elections.

VAUSE: Gina gets the last word. OK. We'll make this last word.


NEWTON: That was the word. I think that was the word, yes.

VAUSE: OK. We shall leave it there.

Matt and Gina, thanks so much.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: And we'll take a short break. "STATE OF AMERICA" with Kate Bolduan is next for our viewers in Asia.

NEWTON: Plus details on the rogue pilot behind the mysterious helicopter (INAUDIBLE).


[02:30:15] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Thanks for being with us. I'm Paula Newton.


We'll check the headlines this hour.


NEWTON: Now, the man behind the attack, which Venezuela's president calls an attempted coup, is on the run. Authorities found the police helicopter they say was stolen and used to attack the supreme court with grenades and gunfire Tuesday.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins us from Atlanta with more details.

I mean, isn't it convenient that the person who seems to have perpetrated this is actually a movie star. We had that bizarre video. What more do we know about motive, about how all of this happened?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very good question. And there are, indeed, many questions about what that helicopter incident really was, Paula. Was it truly an attack on the government of Nicolas Maduro or an attempt to really distract attention from the country's social and political crisis.

Hours before the incident, the president said in a nationally televised event that his supporters were ready to take up arms if his government was threatened, and what couldn't be done with votes, we would do it with weapons. That's what the president said.

There are many moving pieces, Paula, as you know right now in Venezuela. Maduro is trying to create a constituent assembly that would replace the current legislative body, the only branch of government controlled by the opposition.

And just a few hours ago, the Supreme Court gave the green light to an inquiry against Venezuela's attorney general. Now it appears her prosecuting powers will be invested upon a government loyalist who currently serves as the nation's ombudsman. Why is she being targeted, you may ask? Wednesday, she said, by cracking down on protesters, trying civilians in military courts and conducting raids without warrants, the government of President Nicolas Maduro is, in effect -- listen to this -- carrying out what she described as state terrorism.

And there's more. National assembly president, Julio Borges, a main opposition leader, told CNN he was attacked by the very same security forces that are supposed to protect them as pro-government militia surrounded the parliament building in Caracas. There's been more than 70 deaths in three months of anti-government

protests throughout the country. A very sad situation, indeed -- Paula?

NEWTON: And it's important to note that, throughout all of these bizarre happening, people still have to drop everything they're doing find a morsel of food for their families or get any kind of medical care.

Rafael, in terms of on the Venezuelan streets, what is expected? Because everyone is wondering whether or not this is the beginning of a more strident military crackdown and perhaps all-out martial law?

ROMO: You made a very good point, Paula. The reality is that if we were to use a word to describe the feeling on the streets in Venezuela right now, it's desperation. People don't really pay that close attention to politics. But the reality -- you've been there, I've been there. We've seen the shelves at the stores. They're empty. People standing in line for hours and hours just for the opportunity to get basic food products. Many neighborhoods that used to thrive when President Chavez took power are now very desperate. They're hungry. They're not getting electricity. Water is nowhere to be found. And so it's a very delicate situation.

And one thing that caught my attention was the moment when, yesterday, the president made a very direct threat, saying that he's willing to use weapons against the opposition. Was he just talking, or is he serious when he says that? That's the question now -- Paula?

NEWTON: And it is a terrifying prospect to many in Venezuela right now.

Rafael Romo, appreciate your keeping an eye on it for us. Thank you so much.

[02:35:12] VAUSE: OK. Let's leave that story on ISIS.

We want to go to Rome and listen to Cardinal Pell, the third-highest ranking Catholic official who has been charged with a number of historic sexual offense -- sexual assault offenses, I should say. There's Cardinal Pell.

NEWTON: He did not testify when he was asked to. He did not go back to Australia to do that. He did that in Rome. We'll see now. Those charges pending. He is expected in Australia in July to face those charges. Many are wondering whether he'll have to take a leave of absence from his job there at the Vatican as the top financial advisor.

Let's see if we can listen in.


Cardinal Pell will be speaking in English.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) VAUSE: Whoever that is, is speaking Italian. We'll wait for Cardinal

Pell to say what he's going to say. That will be in English.

What we have been told is that Cardinal Pell does intend to return to Melbourne. He has an appearance in the magistrate court. But that's coming with a condition, apparently. He wants to take the advice and approval from his doctors before he makes that flight back to Australia.

And let's listen to Cardinal Pell.

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL: Good morning to you all. I want to say one or two brief words about my situation.

These matters have been under investigation and now for two years. There have been leaks to the media. There's have been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination. And for more than a month, claims that a decision on whether charges was imminent. I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.

I've kept Pope Francis, the Holy Father, regularly informed during these long months and I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week I think most recently a day or so ago. And we talked about my need to take leave to clear my name. So I'm very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia.

I've spoken to my lawyers about when this will be necessary. And I've spoken to my doctors about the best way to achieve this.

All along, I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations.

News of these charges strengthens my resolve. And court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work.

Thank you.

BURKE: Thank you, Cardinal Pell.


[02:39:49] VAUSE: We have been listening to Cardinal Pell deliver a brief statement in English.

We're now listening to Greg Burke, who I think a former hockey spokesman, now the press officer for the Vatican, now speaking to reporters in Italian.

But it was a very brief statement, but a very strong statement delivered by Cardinal Pell. He's essentially saying I'm innocent of all of this. He said this has been a relentless character assassination. NEWTON: But victims of these crimes all over the world will be

listening to right now is the fact that he says, I consider this a relentless character assassination. And the reason is that, while he denies all the charges against him, he has already, in testimony, said that perhaps he didn't do what he needed to do in order to keep children out of harm's way. And the issue is the complicity with which the Catholic Church and many in those positions have acted. Very interesting, as you said, John, that he came out with this strong statement. Ad also, that he kept the pope apprised of what's going on.

VAUSE: Pope Francis is concerned, I think this clearly with Cardinal Pell, the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church in Australia, the third-highest at the Vatican. And Pope Francis who stood by Cardinal Pell throughout all of this, there is a royal commission underway being held on abuse within the church in Australia. Cardinal Pell has been investigated. And there were a lot of calls to have him removed from his position at the Vatican. Pope Francis did not do that. The pope decided to stand by Pell throughout all of this. And now comes the issue for Pope Francis. Clearly, this is now coming to a head. And some people believe this will now be a test of the pope and his commitment essentially to being transparent, being -- holding those who may have done anything wrong -- not saying Pell has, because he says he's innocent. That will come out in court. But what will be the pope's commitment be those who have been abused by the church?

NEWTON: And it's one thing to have what the pope always said is zero tolerance but it's another to test those limits as it is right now, to have this official go off to Australia and face those charges.

Very interesting as well that Cardinal Pell said news of these allegations has also strengthened his resolve and he's anxious to get back home and clear his name.

Again, the issue has been -- and some people have been very clear, whether in the United States or Canada and Europe. Many have said the pope and the Vatican have had a tin ear about this. Because what they don't look at is the fact that a lot of the overarching power structures protected priests and did not believe the victim.

We want to bring in our Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, in room, who has been listening in.

VAUSE: Actually, Delia, just hold off for one moment because we're now hearing news conference in English.

BURKE: Cardinal Pell, acting in full respect of civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him. Recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that process is carried out fairly and to foster the search for truth.

The Holy Father, having been informed by Cardinal Pell, has granted the cardinal a leave of absence so he can defend himself.

During the prefect's absence, the secretary for the economy will continue to carry out its institutional tasks. The secretaries will remain at their posts to carry forward the ordinary affairs of the pastory. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

The Holy Father, who has appreciated Cardinal Pell's honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration and, in particular, for his energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the counsel of cardinals, the C9.

The Holy See expresses its respect for the justice system, which will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.

At the same time, it is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors. Has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities, for example, his depositions before the royal commission, has supported the pontifical commission for the protection of minors. And, finally, as a diocese and bishop in Australia, has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse.


VAUSE: So we've now had a statement from Cardinal Pell. We had a statement on behalf of Pope Francis. The Holy Father basically saying he has granted this leave of absence for Cardinal Pell to return to Australia to defend himself.

But just put in context, were these charges expected? What is the response there within the Vatican? How are they expected to deal with this in the coming days and weeks?

[02:45:10] DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, these charges have been talked about in the media. ABC News, Australia, did an expose three years ago that brought to light some alleged victim's accusations against the cardinal. We asked the pope about it last year on a return papal flight, and he said he would wait to speak until justice speaks. So what we're seeing today is the next step in that justice with these criminal charges being brought against the cardinal.

The cardinal, even before today, has always denied any accusations of sexual abuse, and strenuously denied them again this morning. What's important, of course, about this is that he is the highest-ranking Catholic Church member to be charged on sex abuse. And he is one of the top advisors to Pope Francis. He's the man the pope brought over to the Vatican. The pope places a lot of faith in him. And, so far, standing by him. He's going to be give a leave of absence. So he's not resigning yet. The trial is due to take place July 18th. So presumably everybody will be waiting to see the outcome of that.

But the issue for the Vatican, of course is even larger than just Cardinal Pell. It's about their record on sex abuse. This, as everybody knows, has been a huge black mark for the Catholic Church for many years now. And under Pope Francis, he came in with a zero- tolerance policy. He set up a commission to try and advise him on sex abuse. And the pope was always very praised. Sex abuse is one of the issues where he has received a lot of criticism. In particular, earlier this year, one of his main members of that commission resigned, essentially in disgust, because she said the Vatican was not listening to many of their suggestions. So Pope Francis is also going to be tested. Aside from the importance of the issue itself with Cardinal Pell, it is also a test case for Pope Francis and how the Vatican under him is dealing with sex abuse.

NEWTON: Delia, Paula here. That was, in fact, quite a full-throated defense right there from the Vatican spokesperson of Cardinal Pell. I mean, how do you think that will be received by the many people calling for more reform? Certainly, Cardinal Pell is innocent, going back to face the allegations. And yet, at the same time, it seems that the pope was definitely giving him his backing there, his confidence?

GALLAGHER: Well, of course, to be fair, Paula, one has to say that justice has to take its course and that one is innocent until proven guilty. So it would be quite standard and understandable, I should think, that the pope would accept Cardinal Pell's denial of his allegations and these charges until they're proven in a court of law. Now of course, the test will come at that time, once the judgment is issued. Then of course, we have to see what happens with Cardinal Pell at the Vatican. Because one could remove him from his position as an official that Vatican. But in a sense, he remains a cardinal and a priest. Would he be defrocked, as we say? Not allowed to be a priest anymore? That's one of the highest penalties for the Catholic Church. So there are a number of things one would have to see after the issue is resolved in the court of law.

But the general criticism of the pope and the Vatican in these cases of sex abuse is twofold. One is bishop's accountability. Of course, Cardinal Pell is a bishop and was a bishop at the time of sex abuse cases in Australia. And one of the issues is the question of coverup or not handling cases of other priests accused of sex abuse properly. That's really been the major thing. What's different about this is that the charges are against the cardinal himself for sex abuse. So this takes it to a whole other level. And this is a more serious level, if you want, because, as I said, he's the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be directly accused himself of sex abuse.

NEWTON: Delia, some really important context there.

Thanks for helping with that. Appreciate it.

As we continue to follow the breaking news.

[02:49:36] VAUSE: Yes. OK, our Delia Gallagher reporting live from the Vatican.

We'll continue to follow the story on Cardinal George Pell.

In the meantime, we'll take a short break. When we come back, a meeting of political opposites. A look at where President Trump and his South Korean counterpart might find some common ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NEWTON: North Korea's nuclear program is expected to top the agenda at the first meeting between President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. That happens Thursday. The two leaders' approach Pyongyang quite differently but both want the North to abandon its weapons' programs.

With more on the visit, Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul.

A laundry list of things, not to mention how these two personalities will get. But I'm wondering how the latest news on North Korea might factor in, given the new leader of South Korea has said that he obviously favors more dialogue with North Korea.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Paula. In personality and policy, these two presidents could not be further apart. You have a former human rights lawyer verses a former real estate tycoon and a reality TV star. They are very different in personality. They see North Korea differently. But they do have that common problem of North Korea.



HANCOCKS (voice-over): North Korean athletes showcase their taekwondo skills in South Korea, a sporting connection where others are lacking. South Korea President Moon Jae-in wants to change that, meeting the sportsman at the taekwondo world championship last weekend and the North Korean member of the International Olympics Committee. He calls for a joint North and South Korean team at the upcoming Olympics.

"I want to feel those emotions again," he said, "that I felt when the world cheered, as athletes from North and South Korea marched together during the 2000 Sydney Olympics."

A clear pro-engagement stance ahead of the summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump has made contradictory statements on North Korea, saying he would be willing to meet leader, Kim Jong-Un, but at the same time, saying a pre-emptive strike is still on the table.

Experts say President Moon needs to make a personal connection with his U.S. counterpart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My sense from the South Korean side is they're more focused on the interpersonal dimension and trying to get a good summit, trying to get a read of Donald Trump as I think all world leaders are.

HANCOCKS: The shared problem of North Koreas nuclear and missile program provides some common ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also have to somehow figure out how to inject into the mix a discussion of the substance because the challenges facing us from North Korea can't be put off. HANCOCKS: And then there's THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system,

being deployed to South Korea, which many simply don't want, including, in the past, President Moon, although he's since softened his tone.


HANCOCKS: A recent protest outside the U.S. embassy had a distinct anti-American tone.


HANCOCKS: This protester says, "I want President Moon to tell President Trump that THAAD it is not beneficial for the peace of South Korea and people are furious about being controlled by the U.S."


HANCOCKS: Now a recent Pew Research Center survey found that global confidence in the United States has fallen since President Trump took power. And very acutely that's being felt in South Korea. From 88 percent at the end of President Obama's term having confidence in the United States to just 17 percent now that President Trump is in power -- Paula?

NEWTON: We'll have to see if that changes after this visit.

Paula, appreciate it.

VAUSE: OK. In two weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump will visit Paris to celebrate Bastille Day with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.

NEWTON: The last time these two powerhouses met, you might remember, it was a little awkward to say the least. Will they just hug it out after lingering handshakes in round two? Or maybe they'll do this?


NEWTON: CNN's Jeanne Moos looks for answers.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Guess who's coming to Paris? President Trump accepted an invitation to celebrate the French national holiday, Bastille Day. Guess the White House wasn't put off by what the new French president said after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: Make our planet great again.

MOOS: Maybe the two leaders will opt --


-- to make their handshake great again.

Their first one was described as white knuckle.

MACRON: Thank you very much.

MOOS (on camera): Yeah, thanks a lot. That handshake left President Trump's fingers flexing for freedom.

(voice-over): President Macron later called it a moment of truth, saying you have to show you won't make small, even symbolic concessions. Though that day, Macron was on the receiving end of President Trump's alpha-male grab-and-yank shake.

Another world leader, India's Prime Minister Modi --

TRUMP: A true friend.

MOOS: -- found another way to foil the aggressive handshake. Visiting the White House this week, he hugged President Trump, not once, not twice, but three times. His technique was to offer a hand, pull the president into a hug, then employ a lingering double hand hold.

(on camera): Now lest you think this was an exclusive bromance, you should know that India's prime minister is famous for his hugs.

(voice-over): He's hugged everyone from President Obama to Mark Zuckerberg to less-than-cuddly Vladimir Putin. He used a full-body press when he hugged France's former president.

The gesture prompted one fan to tweet, "Find you someone who will hug you like Indian P.M. Modi just hugged President Trump."

Upon saying goodbye, he rested his head on the President Trump's left shoulder, then his right shoulder.

He also has an odd habit of tugging on children's ears.

Better not try that on President Trump.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: They could hug it out.

NEWTON: They could hug it out.

VAUSE: Who knows.


VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, @CNNNEWSROOMLA.

Rosemary Church continues with our coverage right after this.

VAUSE: She's a hugger, too.

NEWTON: She is. She's a good hugger.


[03:00:09] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: One of the most senior members of the Catholic Church and a top advisor to Pope Francis --