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U.S. Nuclear Arsenal; Trump Warns North Korea; China's Role in stopping North Korea; Biodefense Strategy; Hawaii Prepares for Strike; Diplomatic Talks with North Korea. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINIOS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Than the problems we've seen, frankly, 10 years ago through the military and through the -- through STRATCOM (ph) where we had, you know, missiles, in essence, drop. So, again, yes there's --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But -- but has that happened (INAUDIBLE)?

KINZINGER: I -- I don't know. I think it's in process. I think there's modernization in terms of how. But money has been put into modernization. Truthfully, I just -- I don't know where that actually is in the pipeline right now.

CAMEROTA: OK, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you. We always appreciate your perspective as a veteran, as well as lawmaker. Thanks for being here.


KINZINGER: Any time. You bet.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Alisyn, as we try to parse the words of the president and his secretary of state, we're going to talk to another former lawmaker who has some understanding of tough talk and negotiation and somebody who has biosecurity on his mind in addition to all this nuclear missile talk. Joe Lieberman joins us next.


WEIR: President Trump woke up this morning and touted America's nuclear arsenal in a series of tweets after giving extraordinary warning to North Korea that he would unleash, quote, fire and fury if the threat to the U.S. continues.

Joining us now, former Senator Joe Lieberman, co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.

[09:35:03] Senator, good to see you.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Great to be here. Thank you.

WEIR: Your reactions to his words yesterday?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I know that President Trump's words were strong, but I'm not upset about them because we've tried for years and years, really decades, diplomatic language and a lot else with the North Koreans and it hasn't worked. I mean this goes back to the '90s when President Clinton, in really good faith, negotiated an agreement with Kim Jong-un's father, which gave the North Koreans billions of dollars in return for a promise to stop their nuclear program, to put a brake -- put the brakes on it and then stop it all together. They essentially took the money and ran. And I think it's a statement that President Trump made, not only to show the seriousness with which we take the rapidly escalating capabilities of the North Koreans to the North Koreans, but it's also a statement I think even more important to China.

CAMEROTA: You think that was the audience that he was directing it to?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. And, I mean, I think ultimately that's the important audience for now to avert a disaster here because the Chinese really do have leverage on the North Koreans and they're not using it.

CAMEROTA: And why aren't they using it? Now that things have gotten so tense -- I mean w just heard from Congressman Adam Kinzinger. I don't know if you heard it while you were in the green room, but he was saying that there's this feeling that where everybody is standing idly by, well, the North Koreans are going to become a nuclear power. Unless we use military force, we're going to have to accept it.

LIEBERMAN: Yes. See, I don't think we can accept it. And that's the problem. We're not talking here about, let's say Russia and China, two great nuclear powers with which today we have difficult relationships, hostile sometimes, but we're not really worried about a nuclear conflict with them or being attacked by them because they ultimately have rational leadership. That is not the case with North Korea and why -- now, you asked the question of, why is China not doing more than it could be doing to stop the North Korean program? Honestly, we're guessing here. Part of it is that they benefit from the way in which North Korea keeps South Korea, Japan and us on edge.

Secondly, there's a whole theory here which is worth exploring, that the people's liberation army of China has a separate relationship with the military of North Korea that really goes back to the Korean War. And I know that literally Xi Jinping, the leader of China, is the head of the army, but there's a way in which I think they operate separately here. And they can't get away with that anymore.

WEIR: We have nukes on the brain, for obvious reasons.


WEIR: But you on this Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense --


WEIR: The idea that a bad actor could release some sort of bug, some sort of pandemic. Is North Korea part of that threat or where do you see the biggest worries?

LIEBERMAN: It could be. I mean I don't have intelligence today to tell you that they are. I mean this commission is co-chaired by Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security. We've been at it now for a couple of years. We've issued a couple of reports.

The bottom -- this is focused on the biothreat two ways. One, a bioterrorist attack. And we know that ISIS and groups like that are working on the capability for a bioterrorist attack. And, of course, we have been attack with anthrax after 9/11.

And the second, which is even more potentially disastrous, is an infectious disease epidemic or pandemic which is a naturally occurring bioattack. And we have found so far that our country is not organized and prepared to respond or prevent either of those, either because we don't have -- for instance, we fumbled the response -- and we're lucky, I think -- to Zika and Ebola. We still don't have vaccines for either of them. And they're still both out there and at any moment could flame up.

So we're -- the one thing we feel best about what we've accomplished, we've mandated that the administration, this administration, do a national bioterrorism strategy to try to bringing together -- we're spending about $6 billion. We think -- we don't even know exactly what we're spending on biodefense. We've got to bring it together and push it harder because, truthfully, as Bill Gates said a while ago, more people could be killed as a result of a catastrophic bioterrorist attack or an infectious disease epidemic than even by nuclear weapons.

I'll just finally say, we're about 100 years from the flu epidemic of 1918 in which within one year 50 million to 100 million people died from that epidemic. The numbers are not even clear because --

WEIR: Exactly (ph). Yes.

[08:40:13] LIEBERMAN: And now we're traveling much more. So we've got to raise our defenses to this. The threat here from somebody like Kim Jong-un is that just as he has mastered this nuclear capability, he will put a scientist to essentially develop a synthetic flu virus, a flu, that they would then inject in an enemy -- an opponent population.

CAMEROTA: Well, Senator Joe Lieberman, thank you for taking our mind off our current worries about the nuclear threat --


CAMEROTA: And giving us this new worry to keep us up at night.

LIEBERMAN: So -- it's a dangerous world, but --

CAMEROTA: But you're tackling it.

LIEBERMAN: If we use our strength and we're smart, we'll be all right.

WEIR: Preparation is the best medicine.

LIEBERMAN: Preparation is best.

CAMEROTA: Senator, thank you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

WEIR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Senator, thanks for being here.

All right, one of the possible targets in North Korea's sights, Hawaii. How are the islands preparing? What are they feeling today? We take you inside an underground command center, next.


[08:45:11] WEIR: As the war of words heats up between the U.S. and North Korea, the reclusive regime is threatening to attack Guam where the U.S. has an air force base. Hawaii also within North Korea's striking distance. So how is that state preparing? CNN's Sara Sidner explains from Honolulu.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are inside a bunker inside the Diamond Head Crater. There are six feet of concrete above me, six feet of concrete in the walls. This is the place where the emergency operating center state warning point exists. And the reason why this place is so important is, this is where the warning to all the Hawaiian Islands will come from.

See that phone there? That phone will get a phone call from Pacific Command once they determine that a missile is coming from North Korea headed this way. Then this phone will be picked up. Hawas (ph). This will send out a call to all of the counties simultaneously and they will warn their population that this is going to be an attack and to prepare. There will also be a tone that will be sent from here, that is the plan, to all of the islands and you will hear a warning sound and a siren coming to all the islands. There will be also simultaneously everything going out on the television so that you'll know that this is happening here on the Hawaiian Islands.

Now, one of the most important things that people need to know is, you can survive this if you are a certain amount away from where the detonation happens. And in order to do so, though, you need to have a plan.

Here's the kicker, there is only 20 minutes from the time of launch from North Korea before the bomb falls here in Hawaii. It doesn't give you much time. You'll probably have 15 minutes warning to get somewhere safe. And that is something that this state is the first to work on. That plan to try and save lives in case of a nuclear attack.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Honolulu.


CAMEROTA: OK. Well, that puts a fine point on it. Our thanks to Sara there.

So the tension between the U.S. and North Korea is being compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Is a diplomatic solution possible here?


[09:50:33] CAMEROTA: OK, so where are we now? We have heard a lot of heated rhetoric from North Korea, as well as President Trump in the past 24 hours. Is there a way to defuse the tension and sit down at the negotiating table? The perfect man to tell us is joining us now, former U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

Ambassador, it's great to have you here because as undersecretary you were involved in negotiating with other countries about their nuclear programs. So it's great to have your expertise here.


CAMEROTA: Everyone says, every guest that we've had on says there can be no solution other than a diplomatic solution. Where do you begin with North Korea?

BURNS: I think, Alisyn, it's the right question. And you begin by strengthening our defenses. Before you sit down diplomatically, we've got to be strong. And I think what President Trump is doing here, he's talking to the Chinese. He's letting the Chinese know that the United States is going to defend our country, Japan and South Korea, our allies, American forces and South Korea. And before you get to talks, I think we're going to have to reinforce the American military in South Korea, continue to make it clear. And I think probably by private means, through intermediaries to the North Koreans, that any use of force by North Korean is unacceptable by the United States.

And at some point we need the Chinese to come in because they have leverage. They provide the coal and they provide the food to the North Koreans. And President Trump, I think, was speaking to Beijing. He's been working on Xi Jinping since the beginning of his administration. The Chinese have not come through.

But diplomacy is the ultimate step and I think, Alisyn, I've been watching your program for the last 30 minutes, war is not imminent with North Korea. There are further steps that we can take, a tough- minded diplomacy backed by a strong defense, getting China to use its influence against North Korea, that's where the United States I think is heading here in this conflict.

WEIR: Where -- what does North Korea want ultimately? You can't do a deal until you understand what their motives are. We know that this guy's tested almost twice as many weapons as his dad did in six years, as his dad did in 17 years. So he is a -- he's a young man in a hurry when it comes to shoring up. But ultimately what does he want?

BURNS: Well, I think most experts believe that what he wants is to preserve his family's autocratic authoritarian dictatorial rule. And he looks at Muammar Gaddafi, who lose his life because he gave up the opportunity to have nuclear weapons, and he looks at Saddam Hussein, who gave up his chemical weapons and lost his regime. He doesn't want that to happen to him. I think that's the ultimate goal of the North Korean regime.

So there has to be a regional solution here. The Chinese and the Russians are going to be very important here to get involved to leverage, push that -- push against the North Koreans. And, you know, what we're forgetting about, talking about the impact on us, which is considerable, is that the South Koreans and the Japanese are really in the line of fire here and we have had a defense commitment to both of them for many, many decades now.

So we have allies here and we have friends and I don't think anyone believes that we should go to a preventive war, that we should strike North Korea without having tried diplomacy first. And it's a fascinating -- and it's a sobering fact that as far as I'm aware, no American official in the Trump or Obama administrations has ever met Kim Jong-un. So you do want to give diplomacy a chance, but from a position of strength from the United States. I think that's where we should go here.

CAMEROTA: Ambassador, so interesting to hear you say, as we've heard our other guests, Gordon Chang (ph) who was just on here, to say that actually the fire and fury comment was directed at China. President Trump trying to get China's attention. So what's the next move with China?

BURNS: Well, the next move, I think, is private talks further between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. Rex Tillerson involved, obviously, to let the Chinese know that we are concerned, that we mean business. I'm talking to you from a Rocky Mountain state, from Utah, and it's unacceptable that North Korea should threaten our west coast, the western coast of Canada, the Rocky Mountain states of the United states. We cannot live with a regime like that doing it.

But we don't have to just fire back right now militarily. There are other steps. An interim step could be if you could get to the negotiating table from a position of strength, that we would prevail upon the North Koreans to freeze their nuclear tests, freeze their ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile test, freeze all the research they're doing to perfect a nuclear weapon. That would make us better off.

[08:55:07] Now, I don't know if we can get there, but we ought to try. And it really would be terribly irresponsible of the United States and our allies if we didn't try diplomacy before we thought we were going to put ourselves in a war footing. And I think that's what President Trump is doing here.

Alisyn, I didn't -- I thought the language was off. If you'd think of Churchill or Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, a more determined, forceful United States that didn't have to match in shrillness the North Koreans I think would be a better message for the United States. But I do think President Trump has a right to push the Chinese here to do more. And, again, I think that was really the recipient of the message.

CAMEROTA: OK. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for bringing your expertise to us. BURNS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And thank you, Bill, for being here.

WEIR: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: We -- I've wanted for 13 years you and I have tried to have a partnership.

WEIR: We did a screen test way long ago.

CAMEROTA: This isn't what I had in mind for your first show.

WEIR: No, no. News get in the way, but it's always fun to spend time with you. And happy birthday, Chris Cuomo! Enjoy your day off.

CAMEROTA: Chris is celebrating his birthday. We'll see him again tomorrow.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow picks up after this very quick break.