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China Warns Against Worsening Tensions With North Korea; North Korea Releases Longest-Held Prisoner; Trump Warns North Korea Of "Fire And Fury"; China's Role In Stopping North Korea's Nuclear; Secretary of State Tillerson States Diplomacy Still Open with North Korea. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 08:00   ET



We're following a lot of breaking developments on the North Korean threat, so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Korea threatening the U.S. territory of Guam in response to two American bombers flying over the Korean peninsula.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It represents the greatest crisis undoubtedly since the Cuban missile crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that rotund ruler in Pyongyang certainly is ready to go to war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he is basically doing is threatening a nuclear war against North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is important for our president not to be unpredictable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does need to reinforce the message of deterrence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By using this kind of language we are playing right into Kim Jong-un's hands.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, August 9th, 8:00 in the east. Chris is off this morning. Bill Weir joins me. We've already had a lot of breaking news.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Is it like this every morning?

CAMEROTA: Pretty much.

WEIR: Existential threat and breaking news.

CAMEROTA: A bittle bit. This seems to be a bit of a different category today, but we're glad you are here.

And we do start with some breaking news at this hour. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes this surprise visit to Guam, and he says President Trump is sending a strong message to North Korea warning that any threat to the U.S. would be met with, quote, "fire and fury." Secretary Tillerson also trying to reassure Americans about this threat.

WEIR: His words come after North Korea threatened to attack Guam where the U.S. has an air force base and many citizens after bombers flew over the Korean peninsula. The Pacific region is watching this escalating situation closely. China warning against worsening tensions. We have the global resources of CNN covering every angle. We begin in China, Beijing specifically, with Will Ripley who's traveled inside North Korea more than a dozen times and has the very latest on the secretary of state's visit to the Pacific. Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, these words from Secretary Tillerson perhaps are exactly what Chinese government officials wanted to hear. They within the last hour have been calling for calm here as they often do when tensions escalate on the Korean peninsula. Secretary Tillerson trying to reassure Americans that they do not face an imminent threat from North Korea, also saying he does not believe Guam faces an imminent threat, that 210 square-mile island, home to thousands of U.S. troops, more than 160,000 people, three major military assets.

The Naval base Guam Andersen Air Force Base and there is also a coast guard stationed there as with well, a lot of that island taken up with U.S. military equipment. North Korea threatening to potentially attack with their intermediate range ballistic missiles, a threat made after the United States, in a show of force, flew some B1-B bombers over the Korea peninsula Monday. Those bombers took off from Guam. Secretary Tillerson while trying to ease the tensions and smooth over the situation, also defending the fiery rhetoric from President Trump. Listen.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the president -- what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language. I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S.'s unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.


RIPLEY: Many analysts believe North Korea really presents the greatest threat if they feel like they're cornered, that's when they could lash out. Secretary Tillerson says he doesn't know if they've backed North Korea into a corner. Also saying he doesn't want anybody to be backed into a corner where they don't feel they have a way out. So he is stressing diplomacy here, which is what China is calling for as well.

In a brand-new statement just released to CNN within the last hour after we sent them a question about President Trump's remarks and the North Korean threats, China saying, quote, "The current situation on the Korean peninsula is complex and sensitive. China calls on the relevant sides to follow the broad direction of resolving the nuclear issue through political means, avoid remarks and actions that could aggravate conflicts and escalate tensions and make a greater effort to return to the correct path of resolving the issue through dialogues and negotiations." China also pledging to do their part to enforce this latest round of U.N. sanctions unanimously approved designed to cut North Korean exports by a third, about $1 billion a year, which the hope is that that will slow the regime's ability to pay for their rapidly advancing missile program.

WEIR: Will Ripley in Beijing this morning, thanks to you.

President Trump's unprecedented warning to North Korea of unleashing fire and fury could undermine diplomatic efforts to defuse the situation. That's the belief of some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Moments ago the president tweeted about the crisis, as he is known to do. CNN's Joe Johns live in Bridgewater, New Jersey, near the president's golf resort. Good morning, Joe.

[08:05:08] JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. I think probably the best thing to do is just get to those tweets straight away. The president tweeting just a few minutes ago, "My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before." He goes on, "Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world."

Now just an enormous contrast from last night, also an enormous contrast from the words of the secretary of state in that interview on the plane as he was heading into Guam, also indicating in his view nothing had changed dramatically over the last 24 hours, trying to reassure Americans, saying Americans should sleep well at night.

Meanwhile, the president's words just yesterday in that media availability raising concern and some of the most incendiary language used by a president in decades. And in fact there are still questions about whether he had spoken to his advisors before he spoke those words. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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 state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.


JOHNS: The president's words were met with strong reactions from members of Congress who are on their August break, including, notably, the Republican Senator John McCain, who said, among other things, that in his view, the president should be ready, willing, and able to act when he utters certain words, and he said he is not so sure the president is able to act at this time. Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you for bringing us those developments.

So the mounting tensions between the U.S. and North Korea prompting neighboring countries to consider deploying more powerful weapons. The concern is that that could spark an arms race in the region. CNN's Alexandra Field is live in Seoul, South Korea on this. What have you learned, Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Kim Jong-un himself has threatened to turn the U.S. mainland into a sea of fire. Now you've got U.S. President Donald Trump talking about fire and fury, so these leaders seem to be talking or speaking in the same language, the war of words reverberating across the world. But leaders in the region are just trying to tame the tensions because they know if there is a mistake that leads to conflict it's the people who live right here who would be suffering the highest cost.

North Korea doesn't need ICBMs. They don't need nuclear weapons to conduct an attack on the 20 million people who live in the broader Seoul metropolitan area just 35 miles away from North Korea. They can also use their conventional weapons to launch an attack in this region.

So while leaders may be calling for calm from China, what you're seeing right here in South Korea is a president who is taking steps to ensure that the defense capacity in this country is at its greatest. He says he is looking to overhaul defense capabilities. Deterrent capabilities are also something that lawmakers in Japan are talking about. They want to be ready in case there is any kind of mistake here.

They are not responding directly to what President Trump said. They are used to threats from North Korea. Not so much this kind of language from the commander in chief of the United States military. But they do depend on the U.S. for defense, for security. They are depending on the strength of that relationship now more than ever. The prime minister of New Zealand did, however, weigh in, saying that the president's words were unhelpful here. Bill?

WEIR: Alexandra, thanks. A U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that North Korea has produced

a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside an intercontinental ballistic missile posing a direct threat to the mainland U.S., perhaps even as far as the east coast. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with new information on the U.S. military response. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. Let's start with the president's words a minute ago, the tweet about making nuclear effort in the United States stronger and more powerful than it has been. There has been a longstanding nuclear modernization program at the Pentagon, but anything stronger, more powerful, perhaps a reality check. A fundamental change in the nuclear program in the U.S. would have to be notified under very heavy treaty restrictions. It is something the Russians would know about. There has been a long effort to modernize, but making it stronger, something worth checking into.

[08:10:03] What we are being told by defense officials is there's no plans right now for any extra deployment of U.S. forces to the Korean peninsula. There is an upcoming exercise that will see a temporary uptick in U.S. forces for that exercise, but, again, no fundamental change.

About that comment yesterday about the Koreans now having a nuclear warhead, what U.S. officials are saying is the assessment -- assessment is that they have produced a miniaturize warhead. But whether it is deployable, whether it's been tested, whether it can really go on a missile and be part of an attack still very much an open question. And a missile, again, they have tested. The big challenge for the North Koreans is can they put all of that into a package where they can launch, target, reenter and strike a specific target. They may have a very long way still to go. A lot of people saying take a deep breath and let's check out the reality versus the rhetoric. Bill, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, it even sounds like that's what we heard from Secretary of State Tillerson. So Barbara, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in our panel. We have Gordon Chang, he is a "Daily Beast" columnist and author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on the World," CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, and Will Ripley is back with us from Beijing. Gordon Chang, I'm very interested in getting your take. There have been so many developments over the past 24 hours and it's felt like things have ratcheted up. But then we heard Secretary of State Tillerson trying to tamp things down. Let me just play for you what he just said on this surprise stop in Guam. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any advice for Americans? Should they be worried?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think Americans should sleep well at night. I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days. I think the president, again, as commander in chief I think he felt it necessary to issue a very strong statement directly to North Korea. But I think what the president was just reaffirming is the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies, and we will do so. So the American people should sleep well at night.


CAMEROTA: Are you sleeping well at night last night?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": No. First of all, there is an issue that I think the president was, with that fire and fury comment, really talking to the Chinese more than the North Koreans.

CAMEROTA: Why do you think that?

CHANG: Largely because right now you see a lot of Trump administration diplomacy directed towards Beijing. So for instance, there was no section 301 trade action that was supposed to be filed on Friday. There's also no section 232 trade action. And we see --

CAMEROTA: That would have been affecting China, they're holding off on.

CHANG: Yes. There's been reports that both the State Department and U.N. officials went to the White House Thursday afternoon, asked them to hold off on these trade actions because they wanted China's cooperation on the Security Council resolution that was ultimately voted on Saturday. Also, a number of other things haven't happened. For instance, we have not seen sanctions on larger Chinese banks for money laundering. So what the president I think has been trying to do is a coordinated tough guy, nice guy approach towards the Chinese. And so therefore, I think what the president was really doing was saying to Beijing, you only have a limited time to figure this out.

WEIR: Let's bring in David Gregory. David, I was just curious your take on the tweets this morning. As Rex Tillerson was trying to put everybody back to bed and calm them down, the president was boasting about the size of our nuclear arsenal.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think there are various levels to this rhetoric from the president reminding the region, not just the north, but China, as Gordon says, about the military might of the United States, the nuclear might of the United States, and as Gordon knows better than I do, part of this message to the Chinese is to say, look, if there's any kind of military confrontation, as contained as it could be, that further destabilizes North Korea, North Koreans will flood into China. That is one of the biggest fears that China has always had.

When I was covering these issues covering the Bush administration, that's what they were dealing with time and time again. China has the ability to solve this problem and to coerce the North Koreans, but they also don't want a complete breakdown of North Korea worse than it already is. They don't want a flood of refugees coming in to the country. And so that's a piece of it. So this is pressure on the part of the president against the Chinese as well.

To me, the disturbing part of it is, you want enough confusion and room to maneuver on our side as well, not just this question, as Secretary of State Tillerson said, giving room to the north to ultimately negotiate, to freeze, to not feel totally backed into a corner.

CAMEROTA: Will Ripley, you're in Beijing, you've been bringing us all the developments and statements from there, and then something very unusual happened this morning and that was that North Korea just released its longest held western prisoner, this Canadian pastor.

So, I mean, North Korea is nothing, if not unpredictable so in the midst of all this, they take that action. How is that being interpreted?

RIPLEY: Well, we have known for a couple of days now that there is this Canadian delegation sent by the Canadian prime minister, Trudeau, to Pyongyang. We knew that they were there to discuss the case of the Canadian pastor, who was detained, but also to discuss possible renormalization of relations between Canada and North Korea.

We know that there was a letter brought from the prime minister to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un along with a medical doctor because apparently the pastor's health has been failing recently, but now he will be under the care of western doctors and get back home to his church just outside of Toronto.

But what North Korea could be doing here by timing this release at this particular moment because the trip was coordinated at the last minute is trying to show their benevolence, trying to show that they are willing to release somebody on humanitarian grounds.

They called it sick veil because this pastor was handed down a life sentence accused of hostile acts against the state. We've seen that with North Korea and other prisoners in the past.

The release of the University of Virginia student, Otto Warmbier, was supposed to be a humanitarian act. But of course, we know that he was tragically in a vegetative state and had been for over a year and died less than a week after returning to his family.

But there are still three American citizens who are being held in North Korea right now, two university professors and a businessman who are being held on various charges. One has already been sentenced.

So, you have that dynamic as well, North Korea is holding three Americans. The United States indicating they are willing to talk. North Korea also does want to talk to the United States, but without any preconditions. That's what officials have told me there as recently as a month and a half ago.

And so, how these other prisoners may factor into the dynamic here, will North Korea try to bring them to the table as leverage as well as their weapons program is something we have to watch. WEIR: As we talk about the possibility of moving from words to bombs, Lindsey Graham this morning, a Republican senator, speaking out about the two possibilities that could bring us to war with North Korea. Take a listen.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: There are two scenarios where we would go to war with North Korea. If they attack Guam or some other American interest or our allies or if they tried to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top to hit the homeland, we would act.

President Trump has basically drawn a red line saying that he'll never allow North Korea to have an ICBM missile that can hit America with a nuclear weapon on top. He is not going to let that happen. He's not going to contain the threat. He's going to stop the threat.


WEIR: If that's the case, what has to be proven and who does he have to convince that they have enough for us to strike first?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that's not the case. Look, let's look at our history of engagement on issues like this. I was at the CIA in the 1990s. We tried to bring pressure on India and Pakistan, countries that we had good relationships with to try to curb their nuclear programs. That failed.

India tested, and then Pakistan tested. They are now nuclear states. The problem with what Lindsey Graham is saying in terms of a preemptive action to take out the program in North Korea is, if you choose to do that, you ought to be telling the American people the truth.

If you want to take out the capability, that is the missiles and nuclear systems, you also have to take out the intent, that is the people, the leadership who want to build that capability, because as soon as you attack them, they're going to say we're going to redouble our efforts.

What does that mean bottom line? If you want to attack them, you have to commit America to a decade or two of eliminating the regime and building North Korea after that. Which American wants to sign up with that?

The American politicians don't want to speak the truth. The likelihood is that if North Korea wants to build a nuclear program, they will. There is not much beyond dialogue we can do to stop them. That's it.

GREGORY: Isn't one of the questions here -- Gordon can address this -- if you're China and you have an ability to keep North Korea in its box, short of a preemptive war, what the United States would certainly be prepared to do. It seems to me, as well as South Korea and Japan, is further ratchet up its defensive posture in the region, which is exactly what China does not want if North Korea makes further strides in its nuclear program.

So that's a question for me perhaps Gordon can address of, again, the China connection here, probably the most important piece in all this.

GORDON G. CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": There is a lot that we can do. We got to remember that Chinese ruler, Xi Jinping, is in the run-up to the Communist Party's 19th Congress, going to be held later this fall.

He is in a very sensitive period and he would be blamed, and probably could lose political power, if President Trump were to disrupt the relationship with China, because then Xi Jinping would be -- because he's been responsible for this relationship, would be blamed by people who actually are rivals for power, want to get at him.

But there are a lot of things that we can do. There were those trade actions I mentioned. There are Chinese banks we can sanction. We also have a much stronger economy in the sense that we've got an economy that's twice as large as theirs.

[08:20:11] We are the trade deficit country. We don't worry about trade friction so we can do all sorts of trade actions against China.

WEIR: They own so much of our debt, don't they? Aren't we intertwined economically in a way that's more difficult than you say?

CHANG: Yes, we are intertwined but China has been selling dollars in order to defend the (INAUDIBLE) and they've been doing that since the middle of 2014. So, their holding of dollars has really no effect on the relationship in the sense of leverage that it gives them.

So, at the end of the day, we hold most of the high economic cards. We just have not been willing to play them for various reasons but we've now got a president who's got a lot of political will, at least some of the time, and very may well decide to change the relationship with China in ways, which would be unrecognizable in previous administrations.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all --

RIPLEY: And the word we're getting from officials here in Beijing -- sorry to interrupt, Alisyn, but the sense we are getting from Chinese officials is that they absolutely want to continue to keep North Korea as a strategic buffer between South Korea, allied with the United States, and the borders of mainland China.

CAMEROTA: OK, Will, thank you very much for all the information from the region, and for all the rest of the panel's expertise.

We have to get now to more breaking news, this out of Paris. Police have arrested that suspect who we reported on earlier who they believe rammed a car into six soldiers injuring them just outside of their barracks. Two of those soldiers are linked to a national security operation.

They reportedly have serious injuries. The Counterterrorism Department is investigating this entire incident. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in France warns U.S. citizens to avoid this area.

WEIR: When we come back, President Trump's response to the North Korea threat. Too forceful? We'll ask a fellow Republican, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, Adam Kinzinger, if the president backed himself into a corner.



REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-Un would understand because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language.


CAMEROTA: That was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Guam moments ago defending President Trump's warning to North Korea. This is just hours after U.S. intelligence analysts assessed that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside a missile.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He's also a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Congressman, good morning.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of the president's fire and fury comments about North Korea?

[08:25:04] KINZINGER: Well, it's not silly words I'd have used, but I got to tell you the hysteria that a lot of people are bringing over this is as surprising to me as anything. This is how North Korea talks so why not give it a shot to say, you talk about fire and fury, you say you are going to bury the United States in fire and fury?

Hey, we got some fire and fury for you, too, if you want to play that game. Then there is this hysteria of a reaction that somehow this is going to lead to some kind ever a race for nuclear weapons. It has been not saying fire and fury and, frankly, pretending like the North Korean issue was going to be contained which led us to where we are today.

Which is North Korea with an intercontinental ballistic missile, we now believe that they can miniaturize a missile upon that, and we find ourselves in a frightening position. So, I don't think the rhetoric is a huge deal.

What I get concerned about is having to listen to, for instance, your prior guest saying politicians just need to admit to the American people that North Korea is going to be a nuclear state and get on with it. It's that kind of defeatism that actually has me a little concerned.

CAMEROTA: But what's the choice? The news is in the past 24 hours that they have produced this miniaturized nuclear warhead and we have seen them testing these intercontinental ballistic missiles. What other option is there than to, I'm sorry, but sit idly by as they take these steps?

KINZINGER: Well, the pieces are there. So, a miniaturized nuclear warhead, a testable workable ICBM, but it doesn't mean they've been married together yet or do things like chaff when they take off to send countermeasures out to confuse systems. There are a lot of pieces that can still come together --

CAMEROTA: Right. But how do you stop those from coming together?

KINZINGER: Well, I think it is multiple things. You have to have a credible military threat. You really do. Nobody wants to use a military strike, but you have to have a credible strike option which we do and we have the capability to do.

But beyond that, ratcheting pressure on China, and we sound like we're beating a dead horse because everybody is saying this, it really is the key and it is changing Chinese calculus from saying it is in our interest to have a, quote, "buffer state" between South Korea and us than it is to actually engage.

You do that secondary sanctions against Chinese financial institutions, Chinese businesses. You ratchet that pressure in. I'm willing to go to talks if in fact we see that that's the way to go.

But what I get concerned with is not saying that we are afraid that someday we could get to where we just have to accept the status quo. I've heard people talking on all the news today saying basically we have to already accept it. That to me is a place we ought not be yet.

CAMEROTA: It is interesting to hear the different rhetoric between President Trump, the fire and fury comment, then Secretary of State Tillerson saying Americans can sleep well tonight. Where are you on that spectrum?

KINZINGER: So, I guess I'm in between. I'm in the sleep well still. I think we have very good technological capability to be able to defend ourselves. That's something we have to continue to invest in. I know we have a credible military option in North Korea. It would just be a very bloody one.

But I don't think we need to just relax. It is sleep well at night but also understand we have to continue to engage. So, one of my biggest worries is if we just rely on our ability to defend against a North Korean attack.

How are we in eight years when the Iran nuclear deal comes up going to be able to morally look at the Iranians and say, you can't have nuclear weapons even though we allowed the Korean Peninsula and North Korea to do that.

How do we say to the South Koreans and Japanese you can't build your own nuclear arsenal despite that in some cases just seven miles away is a regime that wants to destroy you?

CAMEROTA: Not all Americans feel as sanguine as you do this morning about the North Korean threat. Polling suggests that they rank that at the top of their list of concerns now. Is it time for the president to make a public address to the nation?

KINZINGER: I think so. Keep in mind, I've never heard -- I'm not a look back and blame guys in the past guy, but I think it is important to note. I've never heard President Obama give an oval office address from this. He might have. I just don't remember it.

I do think President Trump could do everybody a favor by giving that address laying out where they are right now, our plans for the future, making people feel safe but also understanding we have to pay attention to this.

I now personally consider North Korea the number one threat. It is not because Russia which I did consider the number one threat has fallen any, it's just this has been elevated above it.

So, not just in North Korea but in the world, we find ourselves facing a lot of challenges that I think left, right, in between, every American needs to hear what our plans are and I think that will help everybody feel safe.

CAMEROTA: The president has not given an address, but he has just tweeted this morning, and I just want to read it to you to see if you understand it. "My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before." Has the president modernized and made the nuclear arsenal stronger in the past six months?

KINZINGER: Well, I'm not sure what I can and can't say about that. I'll just say this. It is a priority. Not necessarily to double the size of our nuclear arsenal, but having an effective, efficient, and safe nuclear arsenal with good controls and everything is much more of a deterrent than the problems we've seen frankly 10 years ago through the military and through the (INAUDIBLE) we had, you know, missiles --

CAMEROTA: But has that happened (INAUDIBLE) --

KINZINGER: I don't know. I think it's in the process.