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Trump Warns North Korea: U.S. Military "Locked and Loaded"; Official: 14 Minutes for North Korea Missile to Reach Guam. South Korea calls on Military to "Maintain Full Readiness"; Trump to McConnell: "Get Back to Work". Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
President Trump escalating his rhetoric in response to continued threats from North Korea, fire and fury, his words on Tuesday. His words today, locked and loaded. Here is the president's latest statement on Twitter. "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path!"
Now, earlier this morning, Pyongyang vowed to hit the U.S. mainland with, quote, "strategic nuclear weapons" should the U.S. launch a preemptive strike. I called America, quote, "the heinous nuclear war fanatic."
We have global coverage of all of these fast moving developments. Let's begin in Beijing with our Will Ripley. And Will, what do you make of this latest statement given how many times you have covered this from inside of North Korea?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump had his catch phrase, fire and fury, locked and loaded. North Korea's catch phrase for a long time has been nuclear war fanatic when they talk about the United States. And so, the rhetoric that we have seen this morning from North Korea is very similar to previous statements from the country.
I'll read you a portion of it. Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war," a statement we have heard many times from North Korea, "making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK." We have heard North Korea say, the brink of nuclear war. We've heard North Korea threaten the mainland United States with nuclear annihilation which they did in another statement released during the overnight hours.
They have talked a lot about the history. They've talked about the Korean War in the United States' role in that war, saying that the U.S. was an aggressor back then and they say the U.S. is an aggressor now. And so, the statement also reads, "All of these facts go to prove that the U.S. is, indeed, the mastermind of the nuclear threat, the heinous nuclear war fanatic." That catch phrase again. So, North Korea paints itself as a victim in some ways. That they are surrounded by bad guys around the world, obviously, most of the world does not share that view. They view North Korea as an aggressor. But at least, Poppy, the rhetoric that we are seeing now is back to what we are used to seeing from North Korea and not that detailed plan to launch missiles landing near Guam that we saw just a couple of days ago.
HARLOW: Which by the way has not gone away, I mean, that's still under review, they say, by Kim Jong-un. But I take your point. There is some news that has to involve China where you are and Russia that has just crossed. Let me read it to you. That Russia's foreign minister says, that they are working along with China on what they're calling, Will, a double freezing plan to prevent U.S./North Korean conflict. And they quote Lavrov, the foreign minister in Russia, saying that the U.S. should end those joint military drills that have in this month with South Korea because, quote, "The one who is stronger and smarter must take the first step away from the dangerous line." What does that mean?
RIPLEY: Well, this is something that we have heard from Russia and China also many times before. Every August, every April, there are joint military drills. And China and Russia will often call for the suspension of those drills because they say that those military exercises only enrage Pyongyang and often during the months of April and August, we have seen missile launches and other demonstrations of military force.
And so, once again, you have the Russian foreign minister selling this as a new plan, but it's something that China and Russia have called for many times. The United States has said, no. They say they are bound by treaty to work with South Korea as military allies and part of working together means training together and North Korea, obviously, not willing to freeze their testing, either.
HARLOW: Will Ripley in Beijing. Thank you so much for your reporting.
Let's go to the Pentagon now. Barbara Starr is there. The language from the president that the military is locked and loaded if North Korea should act unwisely, just to be clear, the military has been at the ready, locked and loaded, ready for this for quite a while.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. When you look at those words, it's really important, I think, to focus on should North Korea act on wisely. A lot of the rhetoric here from the president is actually really aimed, if you look at it with precision and he means what he says. A U.S. reaction if North Korea were to launch an attack if they were in fact to launch those missiles against Guam, talking about the military options being locked and loaded.
Military options, as we reported at CNN for some time now have been updated to give the president a rapid response capability. And they are in place and they have been. The possibility of shooting down those North Korean missiles if they are launched and headed towards Guam, U.S. Forces, 27,000 plus in the South Korea, 50,000 in Japan. The forces out in the Pacific have a slogan, ready to fight tonight. And that is something they take seriously. They are ready. That is what we are being told here in the Pentagon, pretty calm about the whole thing. If this were very unfortunately to escalate further, you obviously could see additional forces being called in. But from everyone we are talking to here, they feel they are in a pretty good position.
[10:05:01] That they are ready, in fact, if North Korea launches those missiles against Guam and they are ready and they have the intelligence gathering assets in place to keep a very sharp eye on what Kim Jong-un's regime may decide to do. Poppy?
HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you for that reporting.
Now, if a North Korean missile were to be fired at Guam and were to get through U.S. defenses as North Korea has threatened, an official there, this morning, saying it would only take 14 minutes before it reaches the target. That is the chilling headline that people in Guam, that U.S. territory, are waking up to this morning.
Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is there. What are you hearing?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the Guam Homeland Security adviser who put out this rather disturbing piece of information, the estimate that a North Korean missile would be in the air about 14 minutes before it would hit Guam. That is provided that everything worked technically perfectly on the North Korean part and provided that the missile would be able to penetrate multiple layers of missile defense, involving the U.S. military, South Korean and Japanese military as well.
So, local officials, while mentioning that, also, insisting that the threat level has not been increased. But they did publish and we are showing you now on screen that these emergency fact sheet, that the Joint Information Center here put out. In the event of a missile threat, it's rather detailed. It informs residents here to make an emergency plan for their families, to list potential concrete shelters, to stay inside 24 hours after a possible nuclear blast and not to look at the fire ball if they are caught outside. So, it's not nice stuff to read if you are one of the more than 160,000 civilians living on this island. There are military personnel as well. At Andersen Air Force Base, some local media were invited to see the B-1 bombers that are conducting routine operations and exercises and they heard from a Lieutenant Colonel from the Air Force. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. CHRIS OCCHIUZZO, DEPUTY OPERATIONS GROUP COMMANDER, ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE: The majority of the people here, we live here. So, I live here, my wife lives here, my two daughters live here, my son lives here. We go to Tumon bay. My son -- they go to school here. We go to Jeff's Pirates Cove. So, we obviously, we have a vested interest in here and we feel safe here right now. And that's what this continuous bomber presence does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Those B-1 bombers, of course, some of them conducted flights over the Korean Peninsula earlier this week, which greatly angered North Korea and caused them to issue threats against this American island. Despite the tensed rhetoric, the local authorities are insisting the threat level hasn't been increased. The governor of Guam actually urging residents here to enjoy the weekend, go to the beach and have a good time and try to live life as usual. Poppy?
HARLOW: Ivan Watson, live for us in Guam, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, South Korea is calling on its military to, quote, "maintain full readiness" to counter the provocations from North Korea. This comes after a late night phone call between the South Korean National Security adviser and the U.S. National Security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Let's go to Seoul, South Korea. Our CNN international correspondent Anna Coren is there. Ana, good to see you. What more are you learning?
ANA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, South Korea's military, as you say, is combat ready. There are 600,000 troops are on standby as tensions certainly increase with this war of words between Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.
Now, while people here on the streets of South Korea are shaking their heads at the inflammatory language being used by both these leaders, South Korea's Defense Minister, he spoke to his commanders a short time ago, telling them to be ready to respond immediately to any provocations from North Korea with powerful force.
As you mentioned, South Korea's National Security adviser spoke to his U.S. counterpart, H.R. McMaster early this morning, overnight your time. And they just really reiterated that closeness of alliance and that need to work closely together to ensure the safety of both South Korea and the United States. Now, the U.S. has almost 30,000 troops stationed here in South Korea as I mentioned. A very tight alliance, a very old alliance and certainly, Poppy, we know that the South Koreans and the Americans will be holding those joint military exercises here. We are hearing August 21, which is just over a week ago and, of course, they will definitely anger North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Poppy?
HARLOW: Ana Coren for us in Seoul. Thank you very much.
The president and the North Korean leader, both wrapping up the rhetoric over the situation, more on that ahead.
[10:10:00] Also, over 30 questions and boy did the president have answers taking those questions yesterday in two remarkable press conferences. We're breaking down those comments ahead.
And President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, beefing up, switching up his legal team. This comes after his son-in-law met with federal investigators over some of those -- and also turned over some of those documents. We are going to have the details and the significance of that, ahead.
HARLOW: In just a few hours, President Trump is expected to dive deeper into his diplomatic strategy on North Korea. He will be visited for a meeting by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. This, as the war of words between President Trump and his North Korean counterpart enters even more volatile territory.
[10:15:06] Sara Murray is right near Bedminster where the president is and has more. What do we know about this meeting?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. Obviously, this is a meeting that's coming at a time when President Trump is really making no effort to tone down his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. If anything, he continued to up his ante. He did so, again, on Twitter this morning when he fired off this tweet saying, "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path!"
But this meeting this afternoon with Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations is going to be fascinating because she is someone who has really helped to take a lead on trying to put pressure on North Korea from a diplomatic angle, not from the perspective of military might. She was crucial in working behind the scenes to try to get this unanimous vote at the United Nations to levy sanctions against North Korea. Obviously, she got her will on that. So, it will be very interesting to see what message she is bringing to the president today. If he is as pessimistic about a potential diplomatic solution to this crisis as he was yesterday or if they are actually trying to find a way forward that doesn't involve military might.
Now, this is a meeting that is going to be happening behind closed doors. As of right now, we are not expected to see President Trump and Nikki Haley together. But as we saw yesterday, these plans could always change. Trump clearly wanted to talk to the media yesterday. We'll see if that happens again today.
HARLOW: Let's hope he does. It was great to get answers from him on more than 30 questions yesterday.
Sarah Murray there, thank you very much.
Joining me now to talk about all of this is Mira Rapp-Hooper , the adjunct senior fellow at the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for New American Security. They specialize in defense policies. Mira, it's nice to have you here.
MIRA RAPP-HOOPER, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Thanks for having me, Poppy.
HARLOW: A lot to dig through. The language from the president this morning, yesterday, he said, maybe my talk wasn't tough enough, right, fire and fury comments. And North Korea responds this morning by saying the U.S., Trump is pushing us to the brink of nuclear war. And then the president reiterates that military solutions are locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely. Your reaction to the escalating words on both sides?
RAPP-HOOPER: My reaction is, really, that the president is being extremely unhelpful here in continuing to escalate this rhetoric. Basically, neither the United States nor North Korea has an incentive to want to go to war with one another because the cost of that would be so incredibly high for each. The type of rhetoric we are seeing out of North Korea is bring the type of rhetoric they've used for a very long time. But the world is used to seeing the United States of America be a steadying forth. Off of which that can take --
HARLOW: But what about some of the rhetoric that President Clinton used back in 1993? I mean, he said that if North Korea uses nuclear weapons, develops nuclear weapons, that you know, they will be demolished.
RAPP-HOOPER: But that's different than we have been hearing these last two days.
RAPP-HOOPER: Because what President Trump suggested in his fire and fury comment a couple of days ago, was that the United States might be willing to use nuclear weapons against North Korea first.
HARLOW: He never said preemptively. You are saying because he was talking about a threat?
RAPP-HOOPER: Because he was saying, we would be potentially interested in using force in response to a threat. That is a very different statement than saying that the United States will respond overwhelmingly if attacked. But the point here is really that when the United States sends signals out into the world about the willingness to use force, about the action it intends to take with respect to North Korea. It needs to be clear in its signaling. And the main problem here has been that the president is sending a certain set of signals and the rest of his cabinet is trying to send different ones.
HARLOW: The counter argument to that is the 25 plus years of sort of mainly, with the exception of what President Clinton did say in '93, quieter, softer diplomatic efforts that have gotten to this point. I mean, he can't argue with that, right?
RAPP-HOOPER: There is no question that there's a lot of blame to go around in terms of failed diplomacy with North Korea. But the United States has always kept on the table the possibility of using force if there was a need to do so in North Korea contingency. And every president, since this has been going on for the last three decades, has reiterated that in a calm and sober way.
HARLOW: But let's bring in former Rear Admiral John Kirby, our military and diplomatic analyst here. Hopefully you've heard some of what Mira has been saying. And she's been saying, look, this rhetoric is unlike any other president. It is irresponsible. And it is harmful to the dialogue, right? So to you, though, the argument that Americans are waking up this morning and they're looking at a North Korea with much more advanced nuclear capabilities and North Korea that could be just, according to U.S. Intelligence, months away from potentially striking the U.S. mainland. And they are supposed to think what?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, obviously, they should be concerned about where North Korea is going and the threat that they pose not only to the region, but to us. I think those are justified concerns.
[10:20:01] Let me just mention a couple things. First of all, I agree, that the rhetoric is reckless and irresponsible by the president. We should be looking for ways to deescalate the tension. Take a little bit of the air out of the tires. Pursue diplomatic solutions the way Secretary Mattis has been advocating.
And number two, Poppy, I don't think this is really - you know, people are paying attention to this. Look at where we have been in just the last 72 hours. Look at how all this started. The fact that the North was working toward miniaturization was something that the Intelligence Community long believed. But this all started this week with a leaked assessment to "The Washington Post" about the fact that they have achieved miniaturization and then the president responding to that leak and that news article. We went from zero to 100 miles an hour in the course of about 48 hours based on a news article and the leak.
HARLOW: Well, Admiral, you also had North Korea really ramping up its rhetoric in response to those B-1B bomber flights.
KIRBY: Yes, that's true, they did. But, Poppy, that rhetoric over the B-1s, I mean, that is typical rhetoric and we have seen that. And I'm not trying -- please don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing the threat that North Korea poses, the fact that we shouldn't be concerned about miniaturization and the potential for a nuclear warhead topped on to an ICBM. Obviously, we should be concerned about that.
What I'm saying is, this leak and this -- Trump's reaction to the news prompted more reactions rhetorically from the North, and we just amped up the tensions in an unnecessary way. We do not have to be where we are right now. There is still room and error to come out of this and to try to work forward with some kind of diplomacy. I really worry that the media itself and the media coverage of this has helped fan these flames.
HARLOW: Do you agree with that Mira?
RAPP-HOOPER: I do agree with that. I do think we have to start looking very much for ways to deescalate the tensions here. And I think that there are ways forward that can be much more productive than where we have been for the last 48 hours. I particular, we should note the fact that just this past weekend, the U.N. Security Council passed a new set of sanctions against North Korea. That was a remarkable show of international -
(CROSSTALK) HARLOW: -- you've got China and Russia.
RAPP-HOOPER: You got China and Russia, remarkable show of international unity. And instead of heating up this rhetoric, the president should be trying to capitalize on that international unity to build a coalition going forward on North Korea.
HARLOW: Perhaps we will hear more about that today as he meets with the woman who spearheaded that and was so successful with that, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Mira, thank you for your expertise. Admiral Kirby, thank you as well.
The president's tough talk does not stop with North Korea. He is continuing to take aim at the man in his own party responsible for getting his legislation through Congress, Mitch McConnell. We'll dive into that, next.
[10:27:20] HARLOW: Yesterday, the president gave his most wide ranging press conferences with reporters since February. He answered a host of questions more than 30, on all sorts of topics from Mitch McConnell to Paul Manafort to his transgender policy in the military. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very disappointed in Mitch. But if he gets these bills passed, I'll be very happy with him. I'll be the first to admit it.
I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people.
I've always found pal Manafort to be a very decent man. And he's like a lot of other people - probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows? I don't know. But I thought that was a very - that was pretty tough stuff, to wake him up. Perhaps his family was there. I think that's pretty tough stuff.
Transgender -- the military is working on it now. They're doing the work. It's been a very difficult situation. And I think I'm doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it's been a very complicated issue for the military. It's been a very confusing issue for the military. And I think I'm doing the military a great favor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Lot to talk about. Good thing I have a smart panel here. CNN political analyst, White House correspondent for "Politico," Tara Palmeri is here. CNN political commentator and political anchor for "Spectrum News," Errol Louis and former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, he's also former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, nice to have you all here.
Congressman, let me begin with you because usually, you are far away from me. And now you are here in person.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is the first time. I am so honored, sitting next to your all-star cast.
HARLOW: We appreciate you being here. So, the president took on McConnell, again. And that's his sort of combative style, right? He did it with Sessions. We shouldn't be surprised about that. But what is striking was the tone he used with McConnell versus the praise he gave Vladimir Putin about removing U.S. diplomats and staff for Moscow, thanking them, saying, you know, it helps the budget. When these folks are going to be employed in the United States, still, it's not really going to save them any money. I don't understand it. Help me understand it.
KINGSTON: He was sending a message to both of them. I think he played the Putin thing perfectly.
KINGSTON: Because you don't want your enemy or your adversary to know that they're hurting you. It was like --
HARLOW: Wait. Look what he's saying about North Korea and Kim Jong-un.
KINGSTON: But let me say -- we are talking about Putin right now.
HARLOW: But you are making a broad argument.
KINGSTON: But I think that you got to say to Putin, just do what you want. That doesn't bother me.
KINGSTON: Put in that note, I'll say this on North Korea. Everybody is sitting around, saying he shouldn't say this, he shouldn't say that. People don't have a clue. If we had a clue know how to deal with North Korea it would have been dealt with decades ago.
HARLOW: So, you are saying this administration doesn't have a clue on how to deal with North Korea?
KINGSTON: I'm not saying that at all, Poppy.
HARLOW: What are you saying? You just said no one has a clue.