Return to Transcripts main page
North Korea Claims Successful Long-Range Missile Test; Trump, Putin to Hold "Full-Fledged Bilateral" Meeting at G20; Trump Administration Meeting to Discuss North Korea Options. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 4, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: What a day for Freddy as his Philly's go on to get the win over the Pirates 4-0.
Fred, that is a feel good story for you this morning.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Go Freddy and company. That is so cool. All right coy, thanks for bringing it to us. Appreciate it.
WIRE: You're welcome.
WHITFIELD: All right. The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. And good morning, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Poppy Harlow and John Berman on this Fourth of July. Two big breaking stories that we're following for you this hour. First, the U.S. is right now looking into a stunning claim from North Korea, the nation threatening overnight that for the first time it has now successfully tested a missile capable of striking, quote, "anywhere in the world," end quote. The president firing back, Trump, at Kim Jong-un on Twitter last night asking in part if the dictator has quote, "anything better to do with his life," end quote.
Then, hours after that tweet from Trump, the White House delivering another major revelation, that this week's G20 meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer being held on the sidelines and is now being called, a full-fledged bilateral meeting. That, actually coming from the Kremlin, more on that in a moment, but first, CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks is live for us in Seoul, South Korea, with more on North Korea's claim. Paula?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fredricka. Well, we actually heard from Russia as well from Putin, when it comes to North Korea, saying that Russia and China both agree on the way to deal with North Korea, saying that North Korea has to freeze its missile test. Now, it's quite unusual for the two to be talking in this way. In fact, Moscow doesn't often even react to North Korea missile tests, so quite unusual there to hear from Russia, but certainly it is not just any missile test.
According to North Korea, they say that it is an ICBM. They say it was a successful ICBM, saying it was a historic event for the United States. Now, South Korea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff is saying that they're working right now with the U.S. to figure out if, in fact, it was an ICBM. They said they haven't agreed that it was yet but they haven't disagreed either, so certainly that they're poring over the data to figure out whether technically that is what it was. But whatever it was, it's certainly of great concern to those in the region.
Now, just some of the international reaction we've had from some of the neighbors of North Korea, China said that, "We hope all relevant parties will exercise restraint."
Japan's Prime Minister said, "The threat has further increased."
And South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said, "I hope North Korea will not cross the bridge of no return." Moon Jae-in also saying, if North Korea crosses the red line, then South Korea and the U.S. don't know what our response would be but certainly he didn't specify what that red line was. But there are great concerns at this point about this ICBM.
North Korea claiming that, they can now hit anywhere in the world. Experts dismiss that claim, but many experts say they believe that it could well have been an ICBM given the figures, given the altitude, the distance, the time that it traveled for. Some even is suggesting that this kind of launch could show that they are already able to hit Alaska. But it is not coming from official channels. At this point, still waiting for the U.S. and South Korea to decide whether or not it was an ICBM. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: All right. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you so much.
All right, now let's go back to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, for more on that plan bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 summit. So Suzanne, the Kremlin said it first out loud, then the Security Council confirmed it, but what about the White House?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Fred. Actually the White House has confirmed it now. President Trump was just arriving at the Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Virginia, just moments ago, not far from the White House, but the White House has confirmed that this meeting, in fact, will take place. It will take place on Friday afternoon. This is important, and it is significant for a couple of reasons.
First of all, symbolically it gives this meeting more heft, more weight of greater import. It serves both leaders potentially well, giving President Trump an opportunity to be seen side by side, face- to-face, get to see the body language of these two, and to convey a message, if you will, that Trump is beyond the investigations regarding the Russia interference with the 2016 election, with the investigations as to whether or not Trump officials -- campaign officials colluded with Russia. But to show that there are other topics of interest between these two leaders and that he's moved on.
In terms of Vladimir Putin, he potentially could also get something out of this, looking as if he's the one in control having the Intelligence Community concluded that Russia, in fact, did meddle in the campaign of 2016, and yet he is sitting there side by side with the president of the United States.
[10:05:13] On the other side, significantly and substantively it could make a difference as well. It gives them some real time to go behind the scenes, to sit side by side and address serious issues like Ukraine, like Syria, like North Korea. It also potentially, Fred, having covered a lot of the G20 summits gives reporters a moment to capture them, to see them together and potentially to ask some questions. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you so much.
All right, we have a lot to talk about this morning. Joining me now to walk through all of it, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, he's a CNN military analyst, Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor for the "Washington Post" and Patrick Healey, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" editor. Good to see all of you.
So, Colonel Francona, I wonder if I could tackle this with you first. Because we got a few things, you've got -- you know, Putin and Trump will be meeting in this bilateral talks, whether they together talk about North Korea, you know, still a work in progress, but we do know that Russia has already said that Russia and China will be talking about North Korea. Do you believe it's important for Trump to talk with Putin about helping to tackle, contain North Korea in some capacity? Whether China is involved or not?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I do. I think it's a great opportunity for all of them to sit down and talk about this. And I was very encouraged by the statements by the Chinese and the Russians together saying that the reactions to this North Korean development. So, if we can get President Trump and President Putin together and address this issue, it certainly brings a lot more pressure on the North Koreans. And I think this last test might have been more of a wake-up call to China and Russia that the North Koreans are approaching a capability that none of us want them to have.
WHITFIELD: And Nic, you know, this is the 11th missile test this year from Kim Jong-un. And one has to wonder if there's real symbolism here or direct message to the United States, particularly because this latest one happens on the Fourth of July and a day before Trump heads off to Europe for the G20.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes and you get the impression that Kim is thumbing his nose at everyone and he has chosen this time, a, because he can but b, because he knows that this will get the maximum impact. He wants attention on this. And there's a clear sense that he feels that he's done this before and he's done tests on the Fourth of July before, that he likes the time test particularly embarrass President Trump, one thinks back to the incident when President Trump was in Mar-a-Lago when he tested a missile back then.
So, yes, there is a sense that this is part intentional by Kim, but it's also coming right on the eve of the G20. But then, looking at some of the other things that have been planned, you know, President Putin meeting with Xi Jinping of China on the eve of the G20. The European Union likely to sign a major trade deal with Japan on the eve of the G20, this are all things that are sort of send a bigger, broader message to President Trump on the trade deal about trade, about protectionism and free trade. But Xi Jinping and Putin, they didn't know that Kim was going to test this missile when they were meeting but they very quickly formulated a plan that tries to thwart the United States' ambitions and its problem solving of the North Korea crisis in the region, saying that -- it should stop its military exercises in the region. It should get the THAAD missile defense system out of South Korea.
So, very quickly, you're seeing Russia and China put up a road block here for President Trump for whatever his solution may have been for this. So, again, arriving at the G20 there's a lot going on. There's a lot of other actors out there as well that are doing things -- you know, that it's not going to make President Trump's life easy.
WHITFIELD: Right. And so, Patrick, you know if Un is trying to embarrass Trump with a missile test do you see that even President Vladimir Putin might be trying to do the same thing by upstaging Trump, whether it be about announcing first -- there's going to be a bilateral discussion and also saying first out loud in a very presidential manner that their discussions with China as it pertains to containing North Korea?
PATRICK HEALEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I think this is a really important dimension, Fredricka. It seems like President Trump is kind of being boxed into a corner by both China and Russia. The United States is strategic interests here from protecting Alaska, protecting the homeland, protecting Hawaii, stability on the Korean continent may not be and in some cases is not China and Russia's interest here.
[10:10:11] So, whatever President Trump wants to do with North Korea, while he's tweeting that you know, now is the time for China to be getting more involved. The United States still has a real interest in calling some of the shots here, at least in terms of laying out the strategy and you can believe that President Putin and Russia, President Xi and China are not necessarily on the same page here. So, you're going to see President Trump walking into this now bilateral meeting, you know, on Friday. It seems like right now at least the terms of the table are kind of the agendas are really being set by President Putin here.
WHITFIELD: And so, David, you know, the setting of the tone by Putin for, you know, Donald Trump, setting of the term on the global stage as it pertains to now this world issue of North Korea. What do you suppose is changing in the preparation for Donald Trump right now, as he embarks on this trip tomorrow? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, Fred, right. You have a political track and a policy track and I think Patrick's right that on policy, our interests and the interests of Putin or Xi don't always match up precisely and yet, you see statements coming out from all these leaders suggesting that everyone's got to work together. The question is, how do you work together and how does each country have leverage over the other.
In the case of President Trump has been fairly consistent so far, saying that he was running out of patience with the policy of strategic patience, that he wanted China to exert more leverage over North Korea, except that what is our leverage to get China to do that? I think that's the question we're going to maybe get a few more answers to in this week, in terms of the politics -- right, which world leader is going to look like the person driving the agenda and which world leader is going to look like they're the person sort of working with the other world leaders and President Trump is in a little bit of a box right now, because you know, you have Europe moving on with the deal with Japan. You have Russia and China getting together and everyone's looking to see whether or not President Trump, the new superpower world leader on the stage, will exert his influence in this process.
WHITFIELD: So, Colonel Francona, when you talk about leveraging thus far, Donald Trump is using tweets, you know, in a much more casual format. President Trump already is sending out statements in a much more kind of controlled almost diplomatic fashion. Does that give one more leverage over the other leading into these meetings?
FRANCONA: No, I don't think so. I think everybody understands that the president's going to tweet kind of off the cuff. I think it was more important is the preparations for the talks with these two leaders. And they're going to meet on the sidelines and now I guess we'll have a full blown summit between the United States and Russia. This is very important and you know picking up on what everybody has said, yes, it almost looks like they're calling the shots but if we can maneuver them into helping with the solution, I don't think it matters.
HEALEY: Yes, I mean, I think that right now, at least President Trump and the United States are very much in the interests here to deescalate at least tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But the reality is President Trump -- we know this from his Twitter behavior, I know it from covering him on the campaign -- public perception is very important to him and being seen as strong as kind of the leader, as kind of the chairman of the board, kind of the biggest guy in the room. It's important to him.
Look, we want stability on the Korean Peninsula. That is in everyone's interest. But he also knows that he is walking into a meeting with President Putin and the eyes of certainly many Americans are going to be watching, given this investigation that is ongoing between possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. And nothing has eaten away at President Trump like the sense that he is still under investigation. He badgered Comey over it in terms of getting let off the hook and it's something that he has not been able to compartmentalize. He has been under this sort of full-throated attack against the media, trying to discredit CNN, "The New York Times," others. He very much as much as we all -- I think, kind of want the same result coming out of that meeting, President Trump is going to be having multiple sort of imperatives on his mind.
WHITFIELD: He wants that to go away, but it is the elephant in the room, when he meets bilateral talks with Putin. How can he not say something about stop meddling, similar to how president Obama said knock it off and it was only in several different means, including a tweet where Trump said, you know, he choked, he did nothing.
HEALEY: Right, but --
WHITFIELD: But now, this is the moment. That's the thing.
[10:15:01] HEALEY: That's the thing. We both know President Trump has said so many things about the Russia hack that it didn't happen, that it was a hoax. That it was a fat guy in a basement in New Jersey. And then, that it was real but it was Obama's problem and President Obama didn't do enough about it. So, we don't know what he's going to say. One thing that we do know is that at least on the past foreign trip, President Trump has been very well scripted, the tweets, the real casual tweets, sort of he held back on. --
WHITFIELD: He didn't say anything while he was on the trail, only at the end of the trail.
HEALEY: -- What certainly the White House wants is for him to go into this meeting with President Putin sort of looking strong, looking on message. I don't think you're going to hear a lot about sort of collusion or telling him to stop meddling because honest, that's a beehive for them. Even sort of touching it is going to get very tricky.
WHITFIELD: OK. And Colonel, on these options of how to deal with North Korea, you've got, you know, there are going to be trilateral talks, there will be bilateral talks involving all nations that are concerned about that region. What is the potential outcome from these meetings?
FRANCONA: Well, the only real outcome anybody wants is some diplomatic solution and of course, if the president can engineer enough pressure from the Chinese and the Russians and those two have the capability to tell the North Koreans to stop this program. Other than that, we've faced a bunch of very unpalatable options. Because if we have to solve the problem unilaterally it's going to be very, very difficult, very messy and it could take us into an armed confrontation the likes we haven't seen in decades.
WHITFIELD: So, apparently we're learning that today, White House officials will be meeting today about options. The president makes it appear sometimes in his tweets that, you know we've run out of patience, that military options could be something we would go with, meaning this country would go it alone. What are the options that these administration officials would be talking about today potentially?
Well, of course they're looking at a variety of military strikes on different facilities. Do you go after the leadership? Do you go after the nuclear facilities? Do you go after the launch facilities and the North Koreans know what these military options are and they have built around them.
They use deep bunkers for everything. They switched almost everything to solid fuel. They can launch these things in just a mere matter of minutes. They roll out the mobile launchers and fire it before we can get our sensors set up. So, it's not a very easy target, but the United States will of course present the president with what options he has. None of them, none of them are good.
WHITFIELD: And then Nic, quickly, does all of this attention just simply help embolden Kim Jong-un, who wants to be important on the world stage, who does not want to be ignored?
ROBERTSON: Unless there is a resounding unanimous voice that arises from the G20, he's going to feel he can maneuver his way between these world powers and that's pretty much what he figures at the moment and you have to look at this and say he wouldn't have done this on the eve of the G20 if he didn't think he could get away with it. You have to take that perspective, therefore the stakes of getting that joint agreeing position loud and clear from this G20 not in two weeks, from this G20, it has to come strong.
WHITFIELD: All right, Rick Robertson, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, David Swerdlick, Patrick Healy, thanks to of you, Happy Fourth.
All right, defying the president, dozens of states refusing to hand over private voter information despite a request from the Trump administration.
Plus, U.S.-backed forces close to driving ISIS out of two key cities in Iraq and Syria. What does this mean for the war on terror?
[10:22:22] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We're just now learning that White House officials are meeting today to discuss options as it pertains to North Korea after its 11th missile test. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with more on this. So, Barbara what would be the options on the table that they would be exploring?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, where this starts is we now know that the U.S. and South Korea are looking at all that technical data about North Korea's missile launch to see if in fact the North Korean claim that it is an intercontinental ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting the U.S. If that claim is true and they are looking very hard at it. And we expect to have some information in the coming hours about what the conclusion of this analysis is.
So, if it is an ICBM, an intercontinental ballistic missile, the question for administration officials now, how would they respond? Because it has been U.S. policy that North Korea would not be allowed to have a missile that could hit the United States and of course, particularly, with a nuclear warhead. So this will now provoke a discussion in the administration, which is already happening today, about potential options.
Look, they could be diplomatic options, sanctions, working with other countries, ramping up the pressure. They could be some kind of low level, if you will military option. We often have seen in the past more ships, troops, aircraft, deployed to the region, to up the U.S. military presence in the Korean Peninsula, reassuring the Asian allies, South Korea, Japan, who want to know that they will be protected if there's a provocation by North Korea. Military options is always very tough, Fredricka. Because the issue is if you do something in the military sphere what does that provoke Kim Jong-un to do? Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.
Let's talk more about all of this. Joining me right now is Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Welcome and Happy Fourth.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you, Happy Fourth.
WHITFIELD: So, Congressman, as we learn today that national security military and diplomatic officials are holding this unexpected July 4th meeting involving the White House what to do. What are your greatest concerns about whether North Korea indeed tested an ICBM?
ZELDIN: We can never allow Kim Jong-un to have the ability to do is to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States. And every time they test fire it's not just an act of provocation and aggression and message sending, it's a test.
[10:25:03] And they try to make tweaks to their ability on timing, on how to become more efficient and as they continue to improve their technology, then they get closer to that ability, the pressure gets ramped up on us to be able to prevent that.
Now, we approach this under the philosophy of DIME, diplomacy, information, military, economics, so -- what will happen in those meetings is that they will continue to figure out how to make maximum use of the DIME principle with military, of course, being the last possible option going into the G20 provides another point of discussion at today's meeting to make sure that the president is best postured for his conversations that will be taking place.
WHITFIELD: Does it make you feel more confident that it would be the diplomatic options? That these officials would be most leaning on given that this is a day ahead of the president heading to the G20 and meeting potentially with China, of course meeting in bilateral talks now with Russia, as well as meeting with South Korean counterparts?
ZELDIN: Yes, absolutely. Diplomacy, information, economics, those components of the DIME principle are really important right now to ramp up economic pressure on the North Koreans. That is why plan a, b, c and d have been to include China -- for China to take a leadership role. Japan, South Korea, it's the nation's in that region that certainly need to step up. But China, especially, has the ability to cripple the North Korean economy if they wanted to or at least the threats of having willingness will force the North Koreans to change their bad activities.
So, we're looking at the test firing. But also, keeping in mind that, that's not the only point of discussion as we go into G20, the cyber activity of North Korea, their human rights violations, what just happened to Otto and their unjust imprisoning in North Korea of people, that's another bad activity. Otto is not a unique exception to the norm in North Korea.
And also, the North Korean people themselves, as far as the information component, they are not coming in contact with the full story as to why they're facing the plight that they face. And they look to their North Korean leadership as heroes. And it's unfortunate that they aren't getting the full picture as to why it's their own government that's keeping them forced to live in the situation that is their present-day reality.
WHITFIELD: And now that it has been confirmed by the White House, from Security Council and the Kremlin that there will be the bilateral talks -- a full-fledged bilateral talk between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. What is your hope the discussions that they will, you know, talk about. At first, we were told there would be Ukraine and Syria. But now that it's a bilateral discussion, what are you hoping the two men are going to talk about?
ZELDIN: There's a lot to talk about. And Russia is an adversary of the United States and they should talk about Ukraine. They should talk about Syria. They should talk about Afghanistan where Russia has a relationship with the Taliban. And they're meddling in Afghanistan where U.S. service members are.
We are just talking about cyber activity as it relates to North Korea. There's certainly a cyber offensive on the part of the Russians. The president should find the opportunity to speak about NATO. He should speak about the activity of Russian meddling in the United States election, as well as other elections abroad. These are all topics.
And then, there are also areas where we can work better together -- very importantly, with the battle against the ISIS. ISIS made a strategic blunder in targeting Russia. Now, they have another adversary where ISIS is operating in Syria. Russia actually has more of a presence in Syria than United States does. So, that is an area where hopefully they can make very good progress in both countries working together. There's a lot to talk about.
WHITFIELD: Yes, there's a lot to talk about. And quickly, you did say that you would hope that he would talk about the -- you know, cyber meddling, Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections. If that is a topic not broached by the president of the United States, big mistake or not? ZELDIN: No, absolutely it would be a mistake, because you know, if you look back on the 2016 elections and Russia meddling there. Russia has a long history of doing so. Quite honestly, to be candid, the United States has a history of meddling in other elections abroad. But you know, before you know it, you're facing another election ahead and it's not just dealing with Russia itself, but also other nations, other actors, protecting the integrity of our own process here. Our electoral process is incredibly important, whether it's reflecting on the last election but also looking forward to future elections. So, that's an important topic.