Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea-U.S. Tensions; Trump on Venezuela; Kenya Election. Aired 12mn-12:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2017 - 00:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump warning Kim Jong-un once more Friday evening. But that's not all. President Trump also talked tough about the crisis in Venezuela, saying a U.S. military intervention was not ruled out.

Hello, everyone, thank you for joining us. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And CNN NEWSROOM strategies right now.


STOUT: A stern new warning from U.S. president Donald Trump aims squarely at North Korea's threat to fire missiles near the Pacific island of Guam, where the U.S. has a large military presence.


TRUMP: If anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.

QUESTION: Have you ordered any change in our military readiness?

TRUMP: I don't want to say. That, I just -- I don't talk about that. You know that.


STOUT: The U.S. president fired off the verbal salvo after meeting with his national security team while on vacation in New Jersey. But Mr. Trump was cagey when asked by reporters if the U.S. was prepared to go to war against Pyongyang.


TRUMP: We think that lots of good things could happen and we could also have a bad solution. But we think lots of good things can happen. QUESTION: What would be a bad solution, sir?

TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.

QUESTION: When you say bad solution, are you talking about war?

Is the U.S. going to go to war?

TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.


STOUT: Mr. Trump also opened up another possible area of U.S. intervention when he took a jab at the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor.

This is, you know, we're all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they're dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.


STOUT: All right, a lot to get to. Let's get the latest now from CNN's Jim Acosta.


TRUMP: Well, you know, my critics are only saying that because it's me. If somebody else uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they'd say, "What a great statement, what a wonderful statement."

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No second thoughts from the president just hours after a new chest thumping message to North Korea.

TRUMP: If he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat -- which, by the way, he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years -- or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or anyplace else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The latest tough talk following a morning tweet, "Military solutions are now fully in place," the president says, "locked and loaded should North Korea react unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path."

The threat of military action comes less than one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis was starting to tone down the administrations rhetoric, emphasizing diplomacy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You can see the American effort is diplomatically led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results. And I want to stay right there. Right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Still, the president insists his team is on the same page.

TRUMP: There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Asked about the president's claim that military options are now locked and loaded an administration official all but said, don't worry, there are military plans for just about any crisis we may face in the world. These plans are updated on a continuous basis as needed and provide options for the president. This isn't anything new.

The president may be shrugging off questions about his talk of fire and fury this week...

TRUMP: And frankly, the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough, maybe it wasn't tough enough.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric runs somewhat owner to his repeated claims that he won't telegraph his next moves.

TRUMP: I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say we're going to do this in four weeks and that doesn't work that way. We'll see what happens.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats insist the White House message is a mess. Aides to the president are also clarifying his comments on Russia's decision to expel American diplomats.

TRUMP: 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 because now we have a smaller payroll.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Asked about that, the White House said in a statement, "The president was being sarcastic. We take seriously Moscow's unwarranted actions against our personnel and diplomatic --


ACOSTA (voice-over): -- "properties. And we are exploring our response options."

(END VIDEOTAPE) STOUT: And that was CNN's Jim Acosta reporting there.

Let's go to U.S. Lt. Col. Rick Francona, CNN military analyst.

Col. Francona, thank you so much for joining us here on the program.

Wow, this rhetoric, from fire and fury to locked and loaded, to big, big trouble.

What do you make of this tone from Trump?

And could it, just could it be part of an actual strategy?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I hope it's part of an actual strategy. If you read the Secretary Mattis's words, his written statement, it was very strong as well, a little more a diplomatically worded.

And then you contrast that with what the secretary of state Tillerson has said. They're all wanting to go the same way. Basically saying we hope the diplomatic track works but we're prepared or military option if it doesn't. I think most people realize that's what he's trying to say but he doesn't always say it artfully, just to be polite.

But I think it's having an effect. We're seeing the North Koreans react in ways they haven't in the past. Now we are always going to get the bluster and the bellicose rhetoric from Kim Jong-un and his senior officials.

But what we saw the other day with this detailed plan of an attack on Guam was something we haven't seen before and I think that the of the bellicose rhetoric from the United States has forced them to try and come up with something concrete.

So it's a little more I think finite now. One thing about this plan that they laid out for Guam was it was an option to be presented to the commander in chief. It really wasn't an actual threat to say we're going to do this. He said we're going to plan to do this if we need to.

STOUT: Got it. And a key difference there, there is a difference between a threat to actually carry out something versus just to have a plan to respond to the rising rhetoric.

And it's interesting what you're saying here. You think that the rhetoric from Donald Trump whether it's intended or not or part of a greater strategy is actually working, is forcing North Korea's hand.

But is there a danger here?

Could it reach a certain pitch that we could edge closer to an actual real-world confrontation?

FRANCONA: Well, yes, I think that's a problem because you wars of words have bad consequences if they turn into real wars. So I think both countries are walking a fine line.

The problem here , Kristie, is that we are -- we -- both countries have taken opposing positions and this won't be solved unless one country is willing to change its positions or live with the status quo.

I suspect that we're probably going to end up on some diplomatic track where we end up with the status quo and agree to talk some more because no one, no one wants to edge any closer to the brink than we already are. Neither country wants to fight a war and, of course, the North Koreans know they can't win a war and we don't want to fight one.

STOUT: Of course, it we don't want all that conflict here. But when you say that diplomacy could be an option there, how could that play out, especially given reports that there is this back channel between U.S. and North Korea?

FRANCONA: Yes, and I think that's important and there's always been a back channel with North Korea and I think Secretary Tillerson is the right guy to do this. And if we can make some sort of back channel arrangement, where we can both back off and find some position that both countries can live with. I don't know what that is. That's for the diplomats to figure out.

But there's got to be some middle ground where we can we can all live without getting any closer to an armed conflict, even if it's not a nuclear conflict. An armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula will be catastrophic as Secretary Mattis has said.

STOUT: And there is another option that's out there, an option from Russia and China. They are calling for this double freezing plan, a freeze on North Korean weapons tests, along with the freeze on large- scale U.S. and South Korean military drills.

What you make of that?

And would the U.S. agree to that?

FRANCONA: Yes, this has been a longtime demand of the North Koreans for any kind of concessions on their part. They say we have got to stop these -- this annual series of exercises that we conduct with South Korea. I don't see the United States backing down on that because we we've just said that's not negotiable, so I don't think that that's something we're willing to concede just yet.

But you know, who knows. Something has to give to back down from this situation which we're in right now.

STOUT: And while we have you, a final question on Venezuela. Donald Trump says that he's not going to rule out a military option.

What do you think of that as a response to the legitimate growing crisis there in Venezuela?

FRANCONA: Yes, you know, I was really surprised when he said that and I think a lot of people were taken aback when that came out. I know that the U.S. military has plans for all sorts of operations, including Venezuela.

But most of these would center around the evacuation of the American embassy, nonessential personnel, American citizens and, if need be, to provide some sort of humanitarian relief if requested by the Venezuela government. But I don't see --


FRANCONA: -- any chance of a U.S. military intervention. That is just not in the cards. I think he might have picked a few different words there.

STOUT: Got it. Col. Francona, we'll leave it at that. Thank you so much for lending your insight here on CNN. Take care.

Now president Donald Trump blames previous U.S. administrations for not dealing forcefully enough with North Korea. But he claimed to his allies in the region are taking comfort in the fact that he is now in charge.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. B-1 bombers taking off from Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam, part of daily operations at this strategic U.S. launch pad in the Western Pacific.

Forty percent of Guam's economy depends on military spending. So installations like Andersen Air Force Base are small cities, home to thousands of service personnel and their family members.

There are around 5,300 military personnel stationed at Andersen and at Guam's naval base. U.S. officers here emphasize Guam is more than just a military posting.

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 go - they go to school here, we go to Jeff's Pirates Cove, so we obviously have a vested interest in here. And we feel safe here right now. And that's what this continuous bomber presence does. It assures our allies and deters our adversaries.

WATSON (voice-over): It is Guam's military installations and its geographic proximity to the Korean Peninsula that have made it the target of verbal threats from the North Korean regime.


WATSON (voice-over): Guam's homeland security advisor says it would only take 14 minutes for a missile to reach Guam from North Korea, provided the weapon penetrates multiple layers of missile defense. Local authorities also published this emergency fact sheet, advising civilians what to do in the event of an attack from a missile armed with a nuclear warhead.

And yet the governor insists the threat level to Guam has not been raised.

EDDIE CALVO, GOVERNOR OF GUAM: When the drumbeats of war are being beaten so loudly, it's important to really be clear about the facts and with the facts represented to the people and also urge everyone to be vigilant but also not to panic.

WATSON (voice-over): More than 160,000 American civilians call this island home. While there's no sign of panic here, there is concern.

ASHLEY FLORES, GUAM RESIDENT: It's natural to be scared. We're human.

Ashley Flores says she's instructed her 6- and 8-year-old children what to do in the event of a missile attack.

FLORES: They're in school, to follow the teachers' rules. It's scary if Mommy and Daddy's not there. But as long as you have instructions and you listen, try your best to follow it.

WATSON (voice-over): Difficult lessons to teach anyone living in this tropical paradise -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Guam.


STOUT: And that was Ivan Watson reporting from Guam.

Now let's bring out that sound bite that we have available for you now. This is President Trump talking about allies in the region.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) what have you been able to do to reassure South Korea, given the recent tensions (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I think as far as reassurance, they probably feel as reassured as they can feel. Certainly they feel more reassured with me than they do with other presidents from the past because nobody's really don't the job that they're supposed to be doing.

And that's why we're at this horrible situation right now. And it is a very bad situation. It's a very dangerous situation and it will not continue, that I can tell you. So I think South Korea's very happy and you don't mention Japan but I think Japan is very happy with the job we're doing. I think they're very impressed with the job we're doing and let's see how it turns out.


STOUT: Donald Trump there calling the tension with North Korea a very dangerous situation and claiming that allies in the region, including Japan, very happy with how the Trump administration is handling things.

Journalist Kaori Enjoji joins us now live from Tokyo with the view there.

And, Kaori, would officials in Tokyo agree with that assessment from Trump?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, Kristie, officials here in Japan have been extremely quiet over the last few days. Yes, it has been a long weekend with a public holiday on Friday but very measured response from Japanese officials.

Regarding the latest rhetoric between North Korea and the U.S. president Donald Trump, on the surface, the strengths here in Tokyo it is just another summer afternoon, a summer weekend afternoon.

But I think citizens too are growing increasingly worried, especially as they saw --


ENJOJI: -- throughout the warning the PAC-3 missiles, the latest line of defense that Japan has, move toward the central area of Tokyo, toward the area where the North Koreans said the missiles would fly over en route to Guam.

So I think in general the public here is fairly calm. But they are not accustomed to seeing this kind of heavy artillery moved. You have now PAC-3s positioned in this area and as they say, this is a last line of defense. These are not designed to strike down missiles at a long distance. They only have a range of, say, 10 to 20 kilometers and there have been also -- the public has seen the destroyers out in the seas off of Japan, off the Korean Peninsula, that are designed to intercept these missiles.

So on average, I think people here are nervous but fairly calms, but growing increasingly aware that the situation may be much more tense than it appears on the surface. But in general, I think there is a sense of resignation, too, on the streets.

After all, Japan has a pacifist constitution. It can only self-defend in times like these. And I think they are aware that they are under the umbrella of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. And as you pointed out, the government officials have reiterated that line, reiterating that that this is the bedrock of their security alliance and that they agree with the U.S. president that all options are on the table.

So I think for the average Japanese to see this kind of heavy artillery move in the middle of the night, from areas throughout Japan toward that area in particular, areas like Hiroshima, areas like Kochi, Ehime, Shimane, to move some of these PAC-3 missiles and to actually see that is a little bit unnerving, even for the Japanese who are used to these provocative moves by North Korea.

STOUT: Unnerving, but as you put it, a sense of resignation as these massive missile interceptors are deployed across the country. Kaori Enjoji reporting live from the streets of Tokyo, thank you.

And join me on "NEWS STREAM" next week, when I'll be in Seoul for a look at how the region is coping with the growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

Up next, more on what President Donald Trump is saying about Venezuela, he says he won't rule out the possibility of U.S. military intervention in that country. And now Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is responding.




STOUT: Welcome back.

Venezuelan cabinet members are accusing U.S. president of a, quote, "crazy act" and making an "imperial threat." Donald Trump said on Friday that he would not rule out a possible military intervention in Venezuela, which has been gripped by antigovernment protests.

And the White House also says Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro asked to speak on the phone with his counterpart but was told Mr. Trump would talk with him as soon --


STOUT: -- as democracy is restored in Venezuela.

Venezuela's diplomatic body will meet on Saturday to respond.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins me now with more on this story.

And, Rafael, what has been the reaction to Trump's comments on this military option in Venezuela?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: You can bet your bottom dollar that over the weekend, President Nicolas Maduro is going to say something.

Over the last few weeks he has been railing against President Trump for different things that his administration has said, including the fact that his government is not a legitimate government and that there needs to be respect for democracy in Venezuela.

But so far we haven't heard anything from the regime yet.

STOUT: The situation in Venezuela, it was already in a very unstable situation before those comments by Mr. Trump.

After the election, after months of protests and food shortages, what is life like for the people of Venezuela today?

ROMO: Nothing has really changed with the exception of really taking away the last bastion of power that the opposition had. Remember the prior national assembly was under the control of the opposition in Venezuela. So that's over now.

And when it comes to the relationship between Venezuela and the United States, it's important to say that what the president said this Friday about leaving the military option open when it comes to Venezuela, this is very different from what the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said earlier this month on a cable news network here in the United States, MSNBC.

He said -- let me read it to you, Kristie.

He said, "What's really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the Venezuelan people," meaning not the military option but trying to come up with a coalition of countries in the region that can tell Venezuela, this is the way it has to be.

So there's a bit of a difference regarding what the president said and what one of his cabinet members is saying -- Kristie.

STOUT: Again, it seems to be part of a greater trend of messages, some would say even conflicting messaging coming from the Trump administration.

And your thoughts on the political future of Venezuela?

I mean, despite all these protests against Nicolas Maduro, he's still in office. The opposition is under pressure.

What can Venezuela's opposition do now?

ROMO: Well, the most interesting thing that I have seen this week is the fact that a sector in the opposition has decided to participate in regional elections, not presidential, regional elections, where 23 governors will be elected. That's scheduled to happen in December.

And so though there is division within the opposition. Part of the opposition is willing to participate in the elections because they say it's better to do nothing at all. But there's another sector in the opposition that says if we participate, we are legitimizing, we are validating the government of Nicolas Maduro, which by the way has been called a dictatorship not only in Venezuela but also by a bloc of 17 countries in Latin America, who, this week issued a statement, a joint statement, in essence saying that that they do not recognize the new constitutional assembly and that they're calling for respect for human rights in Venezuela.

So it's a very fluid situation, as you can imagine but it will be interesting to see what happens in those elections in December -- Kristie.

STOUT: Certainly. Rafael Romo reporting there, thank you so much.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, violence erupts in several Nairobi neighborhoods after officials announced that Uhuru Kenyatta is once again the president of Kenya.





STOUT: Now it wasn't all North Korea on Friday for U.S. president Donald Trump. He was also asked by a reporter if he really meant to thank the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for expelling U.S. diplomats.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump said that he was grateful because he was trying to cut down on payroll. Here's what Mr. Trump said on Friday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, were you being sarcastic when you thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that. I think you know that. We'll see. In fact, I was just speaking to the secretary and we're talking about coming up with an answer...

When, Rex?

Tell me.


TRUMP: By September 1st we'll have a response. But we have reduced payroll very substantially. Yes.


STOUT: OK, so further clarity on that.

Meanwhile in Kenya, protests began shortly after election officials declared President Uhuru Kenyatta had been reelected to a second term. On Friday some demonstrators set fires and damaged property in several Nairobi neighborhoods to protest the election results.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga is among those rejecting the final tally, claiming the vote was hacked. Mr. Kenyatta is urging peace and says it is time for the country to put its differences aside.


UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF KENYA: (INAUDIBLE). We are all citizens in one republic.

(APPLAUSE). KENYATTA: As with any competition, there shall always be winners and there shall be losers but we all belong to one great nation called Kenya and I extend a hand of friendship, I extend a hand of cooperation, I extend a hand of partnership, knowing fully well that this country needs all of us pulling together in order for us to succeed.


STOUT: Now Mr. Kenyatta received 54 percent of the vote to secure his reelection.

Now the fastest man in history is one championship away from retirement. Usain Bolt will run his last race representing to make it on Saturday in the 4x100 meter relay at the World Athletics Championships.

The eight-time Olympic champion will be looking for a bit of revenge against American Justin Gatlin, who beat him in the 100-meter final last week. Now 30 years old, Bolt has left his mark certainly on the sport. He will be retiring as the world record holder in both the 100-meter and 200-meter races.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kristie Lu Stout. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.