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North to North Korea: Stop Threats or Face "Fire and Fury"; North Korea Threatens Strike on U.S. Territory of Guam. Aired 8-8:30p ET

Aired August 8, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with tough talk from the president directed at North Korea and already a response from the regime in Pyongyang that also ratchets up the risk and the rhetoric. Today, from his golf club in New Jersey, on a day we learned that North Korea may have managed to make nuclear warheads that can fit on a missile capable of striking this country, here's the president's message to Kim Jong-un.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.


COOPER: Fire and fury, like the world has never seen, the president today warned North Korea that they best not make any more threats to the United States.

It only took the regime a few hours to respond with another threat, saying their military was, quote, examining operational plans to strike the U.S. territory of Guam with ballistic missiles.

Now, if all of this sounds to you scary and uncertain, you're not alone. We're going to hear from a wide range of foreign policy and military experts tonight. The only language remotely similar to President Trump is what President Truman said to Japan 72 years ago this week after dropping an atomic bomb, the first ever, on Hiroshima. He said, quote: If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this earth.

The Japanese did not act quickly enough, and three days later, the second and last atomic to be used in combat fell on Nagasaki.

We cannot stress it too much. That is not yet where we are tonight. The question is, though, did we take a step closer today?

There's a lot to cover. We start off with CNN's Barbara Starr tonight at the Pentagon.

So, what more are you learning about this threat against Guam?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is the North Korean state news agency issued this statement earlier today. It appears to have come maybe, we're not positive, after President Trump spoke. But the North Korean agency is saying that they are examining their operational plan to strike areas around Guam using ballistic missiles.

Now, how realistic is it?

Well, the North Koreans do have missiles that could theoretically strike Guam. But they have some challenges in being able to have the real capacity to target that far away with precision. Some 1,800 miles perhaps, but nobody wants to take that bet, do they? Guam does have a U.S. missile defense system on the island. There are about 160,000 Americans there, two U.S. military bases.

And here's the real problem tonight. This is the direct challenge to what President Trump said. He said another threat will be met by fire and fury. They made the threat. Now, what happens, Anderson?

COOPER: So, before we move on, I want to be clear. It is not clear, because it was several hours after the president made the remark that the North Koreans made those remarks. Is it just that it was several hours later that it was reported, we don't know -- are you saying we don't know for a fact that this comment about Guam was made after the president's remarks?

STARR: I don't think we know exactly --


STARR: -- when the KCNA was published at this point.

COOPER: And in terms of the nuclear development, if, in fact, North Korea does now have this capability, it would be obviously very serious move forward for their nuclear program.

STARR: Here's where we are on that. The U.S. intelligence assessment is that they most likely have, in fact, produced a warhead. The important word there being "produced."

Is it deployable? Can it be used? Can it actually be put on an operational missile? Could you fire the missile? Could you hit a target?

There are a lot of challenges ahead. But again, the key point here is North Korea continues its march on. They are making progress. They're making rapid progress in their missile program, in their warhead program.

The big challenge for them on warheads right now, if they're going to fire these longer range ballistic missiles, can the warhead reenter the earth, withstand the heat and pressure, stay intact and still hit a target?

It's what they still have to achieve. But again, we come back to the question, is anybody really willing to take the bet at this point that they can't do it?

COOPER: And this is -- if they do have that capability, miniaturizing, it would have been faster than many people had predicted, no?

STARR: You know, it would have been faster than you would have thought. Let's say roughly a couple years ago. But over the last two years, you have increasingly heard U.S. military commanders and intelligence officials say they are worried about the rapid progress that North Korea has been making.

And for the last several months, we heard top Pentagon officials say that their working assumption is that the North Koreans basically have the whole package, that they can put it all together, that the U.S. military has to plan against that worst case scenario, against that worst case assumption.

[20:05:10] You have to plan like they have it in hand.

COOPER: All right. Barbara Starr, appreciate that.

I want to go to Bedminster, New Jersey, for the latest, from CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray.

So, what more are you learning, Sara, about the president's comments today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we know that the president has been privately agonizing for months really about what to do about the threats posed by North Korea. Obviously, today, we saw very fiery rhetoric from President Trump. It's the kind of rhetoric that as you pointed out raised alarm bells to some national security experts, even some members of Congress.

But it wasn't actually a surprise to people who know the president well, who recognize that this is sort of his style. This is sort of his tone.

Of course, the question tonight is whether this was just tough political talk or whether the administration is ready to take some sort of action.

COOPER: Right. And also, do we know, and we may not, whether -- I mean, was this a planned response? You know, was that phrase scripted that he used, the fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen, or power which the world has never seen, is that -- was that planned out, or is that something he said off the top of his head?

MURRAY: We don't know exactly whether that was a scripted response. You know, we knew he was having this opioid event today. We expected that he would be asked about the situation in North Korea and if this would be something the president would be prepared to respond to. Obviously, members of his staff had received a number of requests from people about how the White House is going to navigate the situation.

But this is the kind of talk we've heard from the president before. This is sort of his signature style and how he expresses himself and I think that's also why people are reacting with such shock to it. It's not the kind of tone. It's not the kind of wording we are used to seeing from previous presidents.

But as we said time and time again on this show, Anderson, President Trump is not like previous presidents.

COOPER: And in terms of retaliatory options the White House is considering, do you know?

MURRAY: Well, they didn't lay out a list of options in response to this latest revelation in terms of how they're going to deal with North Korea. But we do know the president has spent quite a bit of time huddled with some senior U.S. officials talking about the situation in North Korea. And one thing that top administration officials have made clear is they look at North Korea as a problem with every option on the table. And, of course, Anderson, that includes the military option.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray, appreciate the update.

More reaction to tone and the content of what the president said. Here's what Arizona Republican Senator John McCain told a local radio station late today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I take exception to the president's comments, because you've got to be sure that you can do what you say you're going to do. In other words, the old walk softly by carry a big stick.


COOPER: Democrat Dianne Feinstein weighed in with this, saying, quote: Isolating the North Koreans has not halted their pursuit of nuclear weapons and President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments.

She continued: In my view, diplomacy is the only sound path forward.

I want to get perspective now from someone who's had more few sleepless nights over North Korea, we're sure, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

General Clapper, this latest news that North Korea is, quote, in their words, examining the operational plan to strike areas around Guam, how do you see how drastic that would escalate the conflict or how dangerous the situation is right now?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, first, Anderson, thanks for having me.

Although I am reminded of the apocryphal line ascribed to Elizabeth Taylor's eighth husband, when he said, I know what I'm supposed to do but how do I make it different, after listening to all the commentary about this all day long.

To be serious, the rhetoric itself is quite serious. And what is bothersome to me is, for decades, we've heard this kind of rhetoric coming out of North Korea. And typically, we ignore it. Certainly, at a presidential level, we ignore it.

So, the rhetoric itself is not -- is not helpful. And I am in agreement with Senator Feinstein's comments about the way ahead here is diplomacy.

Certainly, the North Koreans are going to convey the image of a capability which we cannot confirm they have. DIA, my old agency, came out with an assessment ascribing the capability to miniaturize a weapon in a warhead. Well, we've actually anticipated that for years. And it's only logical that as they aggressively pursued their missile technology, so would they -- a weapon to go with it.

But in truth, neither they nor we know that these weapons will actually work. So, I'm of a mind to -- I'm sort of in the Secretary of State Tillerson camp of more moderate rhetoric. And I would also appeal to those in the media to tone down the rhetoric, as well, because the rhetoric itself now is becoming quite incendiary.

[20:10:08] And I just don't think it's very productive to engage in this dueling banjo rhetoric back and forth, which is quite provocative.

COOPER: Did it surprise you that President Trump targeted the threats from North Korea, I don't know if he meant verbal threats or obviously military threats, or verbal threats about military threats, but targeting, saying, don't threaten the U.S. anymore or else there's going to be this response? That's targeting -- it seems like one way to interpret it is it's targeting the rhetoric that you are concerned about and the U.S. has always chosen to ignore.

CLAPPER: Well, exactly. And the issue here, having come out with that kind of rhetoric from the presidential level raises the ante. And what we have always done in the past is take the rhetoric emanating from North Korea with a grain of salt. And when we take it seriously like this and threaten, as the president did, that's a heavy message.

And when he says -- speaks of the fire and fury, this is very reminiscent of the rhetoric that North Korea uses about transforming Seoul into a sea of fire. And I believe they would if they were attacked, if all that artillery and rocketry they have lined up along that DMZ. So, that fire and fury statement doesn't just apply to North Korea, because that jeopardizes literally millions of people in South Korea, not to mention the regional implications.

COOPER: I want to -- you mentioned Secretary Tillerson. I want to read what Secretary Tillerson said about North Korea just the other day, because it really does -- it seems like he's trying to deescalate tensions, which you spoke to.

He said and I quote: We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek a collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated unification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.

We're trying to convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy. We're not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.

That seems in stark contrast to what the president said today.

CLAPPER: It absolutely does. And, again, that doesn't help either have this discordant, inconsistent voices coming out of the leadership of this country.

I think Secretary Tillerson is exactly right. And we need to tone down the rhetoric about regime change and all this, as desirable as that might be, that -- all that does is amp up the paranoia and the siege mentality that prevails in Pyongyang, which I observed when I visited there three years ago.

COOPER: Yes, you flew there to secure the release of two Americans back when you were director of national intelligence. You know, in early -- you know, political science 101 class, you learn about rational actors, or some states are considered rational actors, they make rational decisions based on their national security. Others are not considered rational actors.

Do you think North Korea is a rational actor?

CLAPPER: On their scale, they are rational. Again, if you're sitting in Pyongyang looking out, all you see are enemies. Particularly when they look to the South, they recognized that the armed forces of the Republic of Korea, buttressed by the United States, they are no match for that and they understand that.

And that's why this nuclear capability, which they will not give up, is their ticket to survival. It's the only thing they have that merits recognition by the rest of the world. So, they're not going to give up those nuclear weapons. So, as -- I think we need to talk to them. We need to have dialogue with them but accept the fact that they are a nuclear power.

COOPER: Do you think it's time for direct talks with North Korea, which is something that past administrations have avoided, they tried to make it more -- a number of countries, not giving, you know, North Korea the one on one discussions?

CLAPPER: I absolutely do. I've been an advocate, for example, for establishing an intersection in Pyongyang, much like we had in decades, we had in Havana for decades, and to deal with the government of Cuba that we didn't recognize. And this is not a reward for bad behavior. It's to have an in residence, diplomatic presence there, and also to gain greater insight into North Korea. And one of the reasons it's such a problem for us is because we're not there. And third, to serve as a conduit as information to North Korea.

I also don't think their demands to at least talk about a peace treaty, because all we've had is an armistice, a ceasefire, for 64 years on the Korean peninsula. As the North Koreans look at it, they see that the South Koreans are on a hair trigger, ready to invade them and conquer their country.

[20:15:00] That's the way they see things.

COOPER: It's also interesting when you look at things from China's perspective. You know, the Trump administration has been critical that China hasn't done enough. China did vote, you know, this unanimous resolution from the security council over the weekend, on Saturday, for more sanctions, whether or not they're actually followed through on by China, that's another question.

But from China's vantage point, I always think it's interesting to realize -- I mean, their concerns are: A, about instability on their border and if there's military conflict, obviously, there's instability. But also just the very idea of a unified Korea that has U.S. troops in it and is oriented towards the United States, that is a concern for China, as well.

CLAPPER: Exactly. The Chinese don't like Kim Jong-un's behavior. They don't like the missile tests. They don't like the underground nuclear tests.

But what they dislike more is the thought of exactly what you suggest. That is a reunified Korea -- forcefully reunified by the way -- and imploding -- violently imploding North Korea with millions of North Korean refugees pouring into China and having the Republic of Korea buttressed by the United States right on their border. That is even more unacceptable to the Chinese. Just as the Chinese voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution 2270 in 2016, so they voted for this one. Both of which have very draconian sanctions.

The issue is, will they enforce them? Their enforcement of Security Council resolution 2270 was, shall I say, uneven. So, it would be a real test now to see whether the Chinese enforce this most recent Security Council resolution.

COOPER: And just finally, I'm sure you've looked at this and seen the war games and how this all plays out, and again, not to ratchet up rhetoric or scare tactics in any way, but just -- you mentioned it a little bit. I mean, Seoul, South Korea, is quite close to the North. Just the impact of a regional conflict, military conflict, using whatever weapons that North Korea has to South Korea, to Japan, what are we talking about in terms of the scale?

CLAPPER: You're talking about incomprehensible death and destruction. It would be a violent and just a terrible tragedy that would mean death and destruction, both in the North and South, and perhaps regionally. So, it would be apocalyptic.

COOPER: And obviously with 30,000 U.S. troops there, they are also --

CLAPPER: Yes, not to mention -- not to mention the dependence of those servicemen and the hundreds of thousands of dual citizens -- dual Korean-U.S. citizens who are there, as well as of course, millions of Republic of Korea citizens, whose lives would be at risk.

COOPER: Yes, General Clapper, I appreciate you being on tonight, especially. Thank you very much.

CLAPPER: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

COOPER: When we come back, we're going to dig deeper into what the military picture would look like for dealing with North Korea, as well as the terrible cost that General Clapper was mentioning involving nearly every one of the options.

Later, coming up, at a time when everyone needs to trust in the president, new polling shows that not many people do in this country. We'll see whether that extends to some die hard Trump supporters as we continue.


[20:22:11] COOPER: Well, whatever you think should be done about a nuclear armed North Korea, it is safe to say the president's remarks today have moved the country rhetorically at least toward potentially closer to some kind of military action.

We're taking a closer look what that might entail. We talked about a little bit with General Clapper.

CNN's Brian Todd sets the stage.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's defense secretary recently issued a dire warning about armed conflict on the Korean peninsula.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we've seen since 1953. It will involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on Earth. It would be a serious -- it would be a catastrophic war.

TODD: Kim Jong-un has a million-man army and has bolstered his infantry and artillery near the DMZ. The Pentagon says much of those forces are in underground bunkers, ready to fire on Seoul at the first whiff of an attack by the U.S.

GEN. WALTER "SKIP" SHARP, FORMER COMMANDER OF U.S. AND SOUTH KOREAN FORCES: The number of missiles that they have that they could launch into South Korea, and they could cause a lot of damage.

TODD: There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in the region. Experts say the U.S. and South Korea would win that war, but studies project tens of thousands of people killed in the first couple of days.

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, FORMER HEAD OF U.S. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE IN KOREA: It would be a very nasty fight. The maneuver forces from the United States moving into the North would encounter barriers, a very tough foe. They have been forever, so they know the terrain.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, it's certainly not the thing you want to think about, yet, it's precisely the sort of thing that military planners must think about.

Perspective now from military analysts, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, and retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

General Hertling, the president's comments today, now there's threat from North Korea against Guam, how concerned are you about what's unfolding, the pace of it, the rhetoric of it?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY: We should own the clock on this, Anderson. This should be under our control in terms of the tempo.

There's been a lot of emotion on this. This is a threat that has dire consequences where we haven't -- where we were just beginning to make steps to put together an alliance with China and Russia potentially on this or at least make steps forward. You know, we -- the president does not have support of Congress on this, and as you can tell by the reaction tonight, the will of the American people is unsure on this.

And this also comes at a time when there's some challenges to Mr. Trump's approval and his honesty levels by the American people.

So, all of this is happening and coming together at a very tough time. It's something that truthfully is being based on some reports in terms of improvements in technologies that have been around for a couple of years.

[20:25:02] General Scaparrotti general when he was in Korea said that they had the potential to do some of these things. Admiral Gortney said this when he was the commander of NORAD. So, this is something that's been around.

We should be owning the tempo as opposed to increasing the emotion. Having been a guy who has worked the war plans in the Pentagon or the contingency plans for Korea and having been a colonel that's exercised on the ground in Korea, this would be an extremely tough, challenging fight. And Secretary Mattis, I think even under -- was underselling it in his predictions of how devastating a conflict on the peninsula would be.

COOPER: As you said, someone who has war gamed this out and who's actually been on the ground doing exercises there, can you just talk about why it is so difficult and give a sense of the difficulties involved? Because I remember talking about the terrain between South and North. So, from a ground standpoint, but also from just the missiles alone.

HERTLING: Well, it's a constricted terrain. It's mountainous. A lot of ravines, a lot of caves, the North Koreans have most of their artillery set in caves. It would be very difficult.

You know, when we were fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, it was relatively easy in a desert environment to have launches of aircraft or launches of missiles and hitting the targets we wanted to hit once we found them. In this kind of environment, it would be very difficult, and the difference also between the Middle Eastern fights that we've had over the last 16 years is the fact that North Korea has about a little under 10,000 tubes of artillery and quite a few rocket launchers to include the potential for nuclear weapons, as well.

Now, none of that doesn't mean we should take the military options off the table, but I don't think we've really concerned ourselves with, what is it that Kim Jong-un has as a capability, number one. We're beginning to see that. But also more importantly, what is his intent?

We sort of know what he's trying to do. He's trying to sustain his regime. And I'm not sure we've really war gamed enough with this administration what that means to counter him -- his actions and what we're trying to do in terms of a strategic end state.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, what happens now that North Korea has threatened a U.S. territory? I mean, does that heighten expectations the president could order some sort of military action? Because, I mean, what the president is talking about is, he was specifically saying, you know, North Korea, don't threaten the U.S. anymore --


COOPER: -- which is a different kind of threat for the U.S. to be making than others who made it. I think President Clinton, you know, once said, you know, if they struck, that there would be a cataclysmic response.

KIRBY: It's difficult to know from his statement today whether he was referring to a physical threat or a verbal threat. Clearly, they have now issued a verbal threat in response to him today, with this -- making, assessing -- carefully examining potential plans. They haven't exactly directly threatened Guam, but they certainly threatened that they're looking at it.

And that is serious. We have to take it seriously, Anderson. This is a U.S. territory. There are American citizens, 160,000-plus American citizens on that side, about 12,000 troops and families, two military bases. It's a strategic hub for the Pacific region.

Now, we don't know -- what's not clear is whether they actually can hit Guam with any sort of effectiveness or precision. But again, as General Hertling said, we've got to take this guy seriously. We've got to take these threats seriously and we have to be ready for that.

So, the rhetoric simply did amp up today in a very unhelpful way, and it was all -- it was all avoidable. The president just simply didn't need to go there today, especially in the wake of the fact that he has his secretary of state in the region, who has indicated that we're not after regime change. We are willing to explore the notion of negotiations and direct talks. He's got this great win at the U.N. Security Council just a couple of days ago that prompted a sharp response from the North, but still a significant win for the international community, galvanizing pressure.

All that was moving in his direction. This was a step back.

COOPER: Colonel Francona, what's so interesting -- and Admiral Kirby referenced it -- that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, just previously a few days ago had made a very different kind of statement towards North Korea, essentially kind of trying to lower the rhetoric, make U.S. intentions clear, what the U.S. is not interested in doing in terms of regime change and North Korea.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: But what he didn't do is state the position specifically. What are we willing to live with? Are we willing to live with a North Korea armed with a nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile?

And from what I'm reading, we're saying we're not, but I don't know what we're prepared to do about it.

I think by using this kind of hang wage, we're playing right into Kim Jong-un's hands. What he wants is deterrence. That's why he -- that's why he embarked on this program.

He didn't embark on this nuclear weapons program to destroy the United States. He embarked on this program to protect his country from his perceived threat from the United States. General Clapper laid this out very well how the North Koreans look at the rest of the world. When you look out from North Korea, you see enemies all around you. And what's the best way to deter an enemy with a nuclear weapon? And I think that's the capability he's trying to develop. I think Secretary Tillerson recognizes that and willing to talk to that, and say OK we understand what you want. Now let's see how we go forward from here. But I would like to hear the absolute bottom line what is the United States willing to live with?

[20:30:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We have to get a quick break in. Just ahead, as Kim Jong-un and President Trump trade warnings, Senator John McCain has more to say on this. Hear what -- which leader he thinks is ready to go the brink and who may not be ready to that.


COOPER: More now on tonight's breaking news, the U.S. and North Korea trading threats. President Trump warning of, "Fire and fury if Pyongyang threats continue," North Korea saying it's looking to possibilities for striking the U.S. territory of Guam. As we mentioned earlier, Senator John McCain reacted to the President's comments this afternoon. Here's more of what he said.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIIN, (R) CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE: I think that the rotund leader in Pyongyang is not crazy but he certainly is ready to go to the brink. The great leaders that I've seen, they don't threaten unless they are ready to act. And I'm not sure that President Trump is ready to act.


COOPER: I want to bring back our military panel now. General Hertling, I mean, if you're South Korea or Japan tonight, what steps are you taking in this, you know, potential escalation?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There is an air defense umbrella over both Japan and South Korea right now, Anderson, that would prevent any kind of ballistic missiles, for the most part, getting in. Now that's not 100 percent insurance, that's sort of like what goes on in Israel during the strikes that they received. They can get most of them, but every once in a while there's one that's going to falls through.

[20:35:11] And again, going back to what Secretary Mattis and General Clapper said, it is dangerous in Seoul, South Korea. It's a packed city of 10.5 million people with over 100,000 Americans, as well. And any kind of disaster of an explosion in that city would cause an unbelievable human trauma, but it would also cause medical issues across the board and it would be very tough to fight it. So yes, they're prepared for this kind of thing. They've been prepared for a very long time. But that doesn't make it any easier, and it's not something they want on their territory.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, I mean you used to work at the State Department. You report as spokesperson. When you heard what the President said, did you get any sense of whether those were prepared remarks or not? Because one of the phrases he uses, like the world has never seen, is actually a phrase he has used repeatedly throughout his life. I've been seeing just on Twitter various times he used it. He used it in 2012 talking about rising food prices, "Beyond what we have ever seen." There, he's that tweet. "Price of corn has jumped over 50 percent. This will cause a jump in food prices perhaps beyond what we've ever seen." He said, running for president, he talked about China building a military fortress, the likes of which perhaps the world has never seen.

He has used that phrase a lot, I'm just wondering, it seems like -- I wonder if the "fire and fury" was something they worked on and he just added in that phrase that likes a lot. Because that phrase does sort of take it to a different level, saying it's beyond anything the world has ever seen, takes it to obviously -- what sounds like a nuclear level.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, very shrill and hyperbolic. I don't honestly know whether it was prepared or not. I have to think that it wasn't. I mean, this was a camera spray for an opioid conference. I know he obviously was following current events and sort of -- I would assume, had to guess that was going to be asked about this. But it didn't strike me as something that was prepared and thought through. Definitely took the rhetoric to an in-depth (ph) deep level that -- again, we've all talked about how unhelpful that is. But I would be very surprised if this was, you know, fully supported.

And I would imagine, Anderson, that this came as a surprise to pretty much everybody in his national security establishment when they heard that he said this. I can't imagine any of them were very pleased when they heard about it.

COOPER: We should point out, and this has been pointed out by others, he actually in that discussion about the opioid crisis today, which is what this meeting was about, he actually used that phrase earlier talking about opioids. He said, "We're very, very strong in our southern border and I would say the likes of which this country has certainly never seen." So, again, he used that phrase just shortly before, he then used it perhaps in an ad lib about North Korea.

KIRBY: In my work as spokesman that's called a parachute. You know, everybody has their own ticks and phrases that you fall back on when you don't know what next to say. It seems like one of his ticks too.

COOPER: Colonel Francona, can you just walk us through what sort of visual the U.S. military has on North Korea's nuclear capabilities? I mean, public understanding is that most of what we know is from satellites. Could the U.S. Air Force actually, you know, fly over to get a better look? I know some bombers, I think, were sent over recently. Is that a non-starter?

FRANCONA: No, we don't need to. We've got satellites that do much better coverage than manned platforms. So, we got -- if you're looking at, you know, signals intelligence, and the entire country of North Korea is within push to talk range. So we've got good coverage there. What we don't have are good human assets. We've never had good human assets. And I think General Clapper alluded today as well. We don't have a presence on the ground in North Korea. We don't have an embassy. We don't have an intersection. So it's very difficult for us to accurately gauge what's going on there.

As far as the intelligence on the missile program, I think it's probably fairly accurate, because we can watch that, we can see it. What we can't see is the inner workings of working on the warhead, because that's all done, you know, underground bunkers and, you know, in smaller workshops.

So we don't know exactly how far along they've come on the development of the warhead. We can look at the missiles. We can't see the warhead. So, I think a lot of this is assessment. But, you know, the assessments on North Korea have been pretty good over the years. And I think we predicted that this was going to snowball. And we can see how much faster the pace is going right now.


FRANCONA: So I think we've got a fair handle on what's going on.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody. Coming up, more on what the possibility of military action against North Korea would look like, we're also going to look at the possible of diplomatic action and what Americans think about using military action there, according to a new CNN poll.


[20:42:25] COOPER: With some sharp rhetoric from the President of the United States and North Korea, we have new CNN polling on the subject. Half the country, 50 percent, favors the United States taking military action in response to North Korea's weapons testing, 43 percent oppose military action. This poll, of course, was taken before today. With me now is former ambassador to China and Democratic Senator Max Baucus and former Republican Senator, Jim DeMint. I appreciate both of you being with us.

Ambassador Baucus, first of all, what do you make of President Trump's comments today and North Korea's threat to looking Guam as a possible target of attack?

MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMABASSADOR TO CHINA: During my several years of experience as representative of United States -- to China -- one, the Chinese are very respective of strength. And they probably respect -- when President Trump vacillates and issues contradictory statements and incendiary (ph) rhetoric, that's not strong. The Chinese see that as the kind of weakness. And that emboldens them China perhaps as they may want to take.

Second, they definite want some stability in the peninsula at all costs. Keep stability in the peninsula. And I think that's partly why they've got lots of troops massed in the region. It is entirely possible, I'm not saying it's going to happen or predicted, but it's entirely possible that we, the United States, if we attempt a preemptive strike, and, you know, what breaks loose in Northern Korea, China will potentially enter North Korea. China wants to maintain control. That's a very real possibility. We talked a lot about U.S., North Korea, and South Korea -- don't spend enough time thinking about China's reactions. So we have to think a lot more about that.

COOPER: So you're actually saying that you think China would militarily enter North Korea? Obviously China doesn't want a militarily unified Korea that is angling towards the U.S., which obviously is on their border with U.S. troops. But also the fear of instability is something that many people said China doesn't want. But you think there's a chance China would enter North Korea?

BAUCUS: I'm saying China would not stand idly by. They would not just sit there and watch whatever may or may not unfold in North Korea should U.S. attempt preemptive strike. China has been thinking about this for a long time. They're a very proud country. They want to maintain as much control in the region as possible. I'm just suggesting we have to spend a lot more time analyzing China's actions should the U.S. attempt a preemptive strike.

COOPER: Senator DeMint, what do you think about that?

[20:44:57] JIM DEMINT, FORMER SENATOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hello, Anderson. And Max, it's good to see you. Well, Anderson, this issue is much bigger than North Korea. We're now living in a world we've got to understand that North Korea is going to have nuclear weapons. Very soon Iran will as well which mean rogue states, probably terrorist groups over the next decade. We've got to determine what we're going to do about it.

A missile defense is going to be a key. And we had some ground base missile defense now in California and Alaska, some deployed in Japan. But they could not take down a salvo, a numerous, a missiles fired at one time. We've got the technology, if we develop it, to create a basic umbrella that we can use around the world for ourselves and our allies, to render nuclear weapons useless. It's going to take a while and take a big investment. But we can no longer pretend that North Korea is not going to have a nuclear weapon that can reach us. We can argue whether it's this month or next month, but we know they, as well as Iran and a number of other nations will be there. So we need to get busy and get prepared.

COOPER: Ambassador, just from a diplomatic perspective, is it wise for the president of the United States -- I mean, in past years the United States has basically tried to ignore the rhetoric coming out of North Korea, the bellicose rhetoric as a way of ratcheting down things. For the President to respond by saying that any more threats and those threats are undefined, I don't know if he means verbal threats or actual military threats against the United States by North Korea will have these very powerful and, you know, repercussions, "fire and fury" is what he said. Did that just ratchet up the situation or does North Korea cower in front of strength of the U.S.?

BAUCUS: I think it's very unwise. Get ratchet up the rhetoric to a point we're getting too close to the tripping point where something disastrous might happen. There's too much rhetoric, too much diplomacy conducted, in my judgment, publicly, too much by Twitter. These very serious issues have to be addressed privately, talking with China privately, and South Korea privately, Japan and our allies. We need a lot more third party intervention, back doing indirect communication, we've talked a lot about Secretary Tillerson has, we're talking with North Korea. I think that's wise. We're going to need, I think, some exploratory conversations first potentially from Sweden or other countries before we can sit down and talk. But clearly, we have to work a lot more carefully and prudently and wisely in how we deal diplomatically with this very precarious situation.

COOPER: Senator DeMint, I mean, do you think it was wise of the President to make this statement today, because Rex Tillerson, in the statement he had made several days ago, seemed really kind of polar opposite in terms of kind of deescalating the situation.

DEMINT: Well, President Trump's comments is not a real issue here. President Obama tried for eight years, speaking in very conciliatory, soft tones and we see where that ended up. So North Korea is so consumed with paranoia, they assume whether Trump says it or not, that we're ready to attack, that South Korean is ready to attack. It is a very precarious situation. But it's just amazing that people are surprised after they've announced -- for the last decade that they're going to do this, it's incredible as a country that supposed to be a superpower that all the generals before me tonight said we've allowed them to get so strong, we can't mess with them militarily. That's an incredible position for us to be in, and we've obviously not have not prepared and dealt with Korea in a way that has kept this threat to a minimum.

COOPER: Ambassador Baucus, Senator Jim DeMint, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much. I'm going to speak with a congresswoman who represents Guam, next.


[20:52:16] COOPER: After decades of all kind of fiery rhetoric from North Korea tonight, there's a new threat -- a nuclear treat to American territory in the pacific, a potential nuclear threat comes from state-run North Korean media, saying, "Pyongyang is examining the operational plans to strike areas around Guam with medium to long range and strategic ballistic missiles.

Joining us by phone is Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo. Congresswoman, I appreciate you're being with us. First of all, when you heard this verbal threat from North Korea, how do you respond?

MADELEINE BORDALLO (D), REPRESENTATIVE, GUAM (via telephone): Well, thank you, Anderson. Thank you for thinking about us and having me on. Well, definitely I've been concerned about this threat because we were threatened numerous times a few years ago. And we take it all very serious, particularly the people of Guam. I was getting calls a few years ago, whether people thought they should move off the island. And, you know, these are 168,000 American citizens living in Guam. And we've been living with this for the last few years.

Recently, Anderson, I talked with both Secretary Mattis and Admiral Harris about these, and they always tell me, Madeleine, don't worry about it, we're going to keep Guam safe, we're going to take good care of Guam. So I've kind of felt that, well, this is a good thing, they're going to take care of us.

And at one time, a few years ago, I went to see Secretary Panetta when the threats were coming in quite seriously and often. And he decided to deploy the THAAD Missile Defense on Guam. And then of course, they talked about it not being permanent. So, again, I had to go through hearings in Congress, please make this permanent. So we have the THAAD Missile Defense out on Guam, and it's currently operated by the army. So I've been told over and over, Anderson, that, you know, they're looking at Guam, they've got us within their vision to take care of us. And this has been very, you know, assuring to me. We have two large -- yes, go ahead.

COOPER: Are people you talk to on Guam -- I mean, are they very concerned about this? Is it a big topic of discussion today? BORDALLO: They are very concerned because we've always known that our position near North Korea is much closer than the United States. And -- so lately they've been talking more, North Korea, Kim Jong-un has been talking about the United States. But in the early days, a few years ago, it was Guam. And it was Japan, and other regions. So we kind of -- you know, but I've always been very, very concerned about this. And I've told people.

[20:55:08] COOPER: Congresswoman Bordallo, I appreciate talking to you tonight and I wish you the best on a -- as you say, a difficult day for people in Guam. Thank you.

Up next, a closer look at North Korea's actual nuclear capabilities. Plus reaction from Capitol Hill and the threats from President Trump and Pyongyang.


COOPER: Breaking news tops this hour at 360, reaction to a threat from the President to North Korea that is a world apart from anything any president has ever said to any country in more than 70 years. We should say, that Bordallo said, these are words we're talking about right now, not a call to arms, and it's far from clear what the thinking was behind them.

[21:00:00] However, they are not without a great number of very serious implication which we'll explore in more depth in just a moment. But first, here is what the President said today.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.