Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea-U.S. Tensions Escalate; Victory for Kenyatta in Election; Usain Bolt to Run Final Race. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2017 - 03:00   ET




KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Locked and loaded. The U.S. president Donald Trump makes it clear that the U.S. stands ready to strike North Korea militarily. And it doesn't stop there. Trump says that a military option is also possible in Venezuela.

Plus victory for Kenyatta. Kenya's incumbent president is declared the winner.

Hello, there, and thank you for joining us. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


STOUT: Chinese president Xi Jinping urged restraint toward North Korea in a phone call with U.S. president Donald Trump. Mr. Xi called for diplomacy to defuse the situation and avoiding words and actions that escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The phone call with Mr. Xi followed a stern new warning from Mr. Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Those words were aimed squarely at North Korea's threat to fire missiles near the Pacific island of Guam, where the U.S. has a large military presence.

But Mr. Trump would not say 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Mr. Trump also opened up another possible area of U.S. intervention when he took a jab at Venezuelan president 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: We get the latest now from CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: After a long week of rising tensions between the United States government and North Korea, the tensions kept rising.

President Trump on Friday continuing with his rhetoric that there would be big trouble, in his words, if North Korea was to attack Guam. U.S. intelligence now watching around the clock for any signs of Kim Jong-un living up to the threat of launching four intermediate-range ballistic missiles to land in the sea about 20 miles off of Guam.

The U.S. military prepared if needed to shoot those missiles down. U.S. officials making very clear that all of the U.S. military force they need is in place to deal with whatever North Korean scenario may arise.

But that wasn't all the president's rhetoric. At the end of the week at a press conference at his retreat in New Jersey, to the surprise of many, he started talking about possible military intervention in Venezuela. That was a first. We have not heard him talk about that.

There is considerable unrest in Venezuela, where the opposition is very much demonstrating against the government of President Maduro there. The Venezuelan military for now in support of President Maduro but there's some cracks in that military support.

So when the president started talking about a military option, no one was very sure what he meant. He didn't spell it out, he just put it on the table. Something to watch: just a few days ago, the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said he did not foresee any outside military intervention in Venezuela -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


STOUT: A top Venezuelan official is blasting President Trump for refusing to rule out the possibility of U.S. military intervention, that country calling his comments, quote, "vile, insolent and cowardly."

President Nicholas Maduro wants to talk with Mr. Trump by phone and we'll have more on how the White House has responded to that ahead this hour.

Now back to North Korea. Earlier, Mr. Trump tweeted that he is ready for anything. Quote, "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path," unquote.

Later on President Trump had a phone call with the Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. The White House says the two leaders discussed the importance of cooperation to find a peaceful resolution on the Korean Peninsula.


STOUT: With us now from Seoul, South Korea, is John Delury. He is an associate professor at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies.

John, thank you so much for joining us here on CNN. First I've got to ask you about the rhetoric, the rhetoric from Donald Trump. He continues to use pretty choice diction, to throw threats and warnings at North Korea.

What you make of the rhetoric?

And what kind of impact could it have on North Korea?

JOHN DELURY, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: Well, I think there's two things about it. I mean, it -- one is the pace. We're getting almost daily comments, you know that are driving news cycles in terms of the president directly responding either to something the North Koreans say or just to the situation. So that's one issue where, you know, at what point does this intensity become unsustainable?

And kind of related to that is it's basically escalatory language and I think actually the subtext of Xi Jinping's comment is that he's not only speaking to Kim Jong-un, he is speaking to Donald Trump and basically saying both you guys need to tone it down and back away from the cliff.

STOUT: Now let's thinks about China because in the last hour or so we know that Donald Trump and Xi Jinping talked on the phone. China as expected is urging restraint. The U.S. as expected wants China to do more.

But with tensions so high, what can China do?

DELURY: Yes, well, it's not -- these are not great dynamics in order to ask more of Beijing. I think from the Chinese perspective, they just gave a lot with the U.N. Security Council resolution. You know, actually the Trump administration was within bounds to say they got good support from the Chinese.

Or course, there's more that could be done but that was a strong sanctions. Actually, if you follow North Korean media every day, they're talking about those sanctions and kind of rally ling their people behind opposition to those sanctions.

So from a Chinese perspective, Donald Trump is sort of undermining the success he just had in getting their support with the sanctions by moving the whole discussion over to military options and to war, which, of course, China adamantly opposes.

STOUT: And China wants diplomacy first as well as America's key allies in the region. And there are reports of this diplomatic back channel between the U.S. and North Korea.

What do you know about that and if that does in fact exist, is diplomacy, indeed, the first choice for the Trump administration?

DELURY: Well, I think it is very important to watch, you know, I mean this is part of the history of U.S.-North Korea relations, even in times like this, where, on the surface, we're seeing bombast, you usually don't get this much of it from the United States but certainly we get it North Korea.

Behind the scenes you have a back channel and, you know, we do know that that back channel was already operative. It's what secured the release of the student who tragically then died soon after getting out.

But the State Department officials have been meeting North Korean counterparts and if you isolate the language of Secretary Tillerson, he's speaking a completely different language. He's talking in language that kind of meets the North Koreans halfway.

So there's a -- and this is the option that we should all support -- there is a way in which, despite all this talk of war and military solutions, really were heading toward some kind of breakthrough diplomacy.

STOUT: All right, John Delury, at Yonsei University, joining us live from Seoul, thank you so much for your insight. Take care.

After referring to the U.S. military as locked and loaded, Mr. Trump went back to Twitter to illustrate that point. In fact, he retweeted U.S. Pacific Command, who had posted pictures of B-1 bomber stations in Guam.

Now officials in Guam have posted emergency guidelines in case of an attack. But they're also urging calm and assuring the public that they are safe. Ivan Watson reports from the island at the center of this geopolitical showdown.


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.


OCCHIUZZO: 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 joining me now from Guam is journalist Robert Santos.

And, Robert, President Trump, earlier in the day, he finally took to the phone to call and speak to the governor of Guam. Tell us more about that conversation.

ROBERT SANTOS, JOURNALIST: Yes, the president and the governor spoke for about 3.5 minutes. Governor Eddie Calvo then posted that on his Facebook page and it received more than 200 comments from people. I read everything from one person stating that Guam is not a pawn to be used in war games; to another person, stating that, to the governor, you're an impressive leader. Thank you for your support of our president.

So that happened this morning. The governor has also been briefed, his usual daily briefing by the Homeland Security, nothing has been said as of that, what has come out of that as of yet.

It is now Saturday, 5:00 in the afternoon just 5:12 or so and I'm seeing more locals behind me at this local beach. It's a weekend after all. But it's certainly a testament to the general feeling here on the island that life goes on as normal.

I saw a Japanese couple who just got married doing a wedding photo shoot on the beach. Today I also heard a bit of a different message, though, from some Chamorros, as natives are called here earlier, the Chamorros for the Free Association of Guam gathered here to demonstrate and share their opinions.

The leader of the group told me that he's confident in the U.S. military's capabilities to protect the island, but he says Guam would not be in this position and right in the middle of these two countries had it not been for them being a U.S. territory and had it had they be under a different political status.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guam is an unincorporated territory. We don't vote for the president who is engaging in potentially a war, a war that could really wipe us here on Guam out and it's just -- it's from the depths of my heart I wish that the American people can see we are people, too, and this is our homeland and we should be accorded the right like everybody on Earth to exercise our democratic principle and be able to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANTOS: The majority of people here in Guam are Catholic, so it is a weekend, so there are masses going on throughout the various villages. Here, the archdiocese of Agana did ask all the parish priests to say a prayer for peace at all the various masses, there's one that will be taking place in about 20 minutes at a church nearby, the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores.

STOUT: It's interesting to hear directly from the people of Guam, they are calm, they are confident of their security for the time being. But you had that chilling news headline out on Friday from the newspaper there in Guam, 14 minutes, the estimated time a missile from North Korea could reach Guam.

So how are residents being briefed on what to do in the event, heaven forbid, of a North Korean strike?

SANTOS: Definitely a lot of people's attention. And it got them to think more about what would happen. Homeland Security did put out another advisory to the people of Guam saying, that if that was to happen, you'll hear the local alert system alert warning system go off. That's a number of sires throughout the low-lying areas of the -- of Guam. And then at that point locals will be encouraged to tune into --


SANTOS: -- local radio, TV stations, to social media to find out what to do next.

They have also issued -- posted a pamphlet, 4-page pamphlet on the island, but that pamphlet, by the way, is something that deals with all hazard situations, including typhoons. S o it's just getting the word out again to remain calm in -- should an emergency arise.

STOUT: Robert Santos reporting live for us from Guam, thank you.

You're watching CNN. And coming up, President Trump says Venezuela's people are suffering and dying and he is not ruling out possible military action by the U.S. Now Venezuela is responding -- next.

And protesters hit the streets in several Nairobi neighborhoods after Uhuru Kenyatta's reelection as Kenya's president is confirmed. Stay with us.




STOUT: Venezuelan cabinet members are accusing the U.S. president of a, quote, "crazy act" and making "an imperial threat." This after Donald Trump said on Friday he would not rule out possible military intervention in Venezuela, saying people are suffering and dying there. But 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 after democracy is restored in Venezuela.

Now al formal statement by Venezuela responding to Mr. Trump's comments is expected on Saturday.

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 --


ROMO: -- 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.


STOUT: Demonstrations erupted in several neighborhoods of Nairobi after electoral officials declared on Friday President Uhuru Kenyatta has been reelected. Police say one person was killed during protests in the town of Kisumu in Western Kenya.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga is among those rejecting the final tally, claiming the vote last week was hacked. Mr. Kenyatta will now serve out a second term. He is urging peace and says it's time for Kenyans to put their differences aside. Farai Sevenzo joins us now live from Nairobi.

And, Farai, this very contentious election has whipped up deadly clashes there in Kenya.

What's the state of play now after the result?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN can confirm that four people have died since the count began. We reported earlier in the weeks to yam (ph) in Malhotra Mathare another one of Mr. Odinga's strongholds. We're hearing reports, too, of a death in Kisumu and another one in -- near the (INAUDIBLE) country.

But it's just one of the things that has happened since the election's results were announced yesterday. Mr. Odinga's supporters spontaneously came out on the streets, believing that this vote has been rigged.

And it is a tense situation in those strongholds. There's a great deal of police presence. A government spokesman told me yesterday that they have visible and invisible security forces in the streets and they are reacting to the threat of any sort of attack.

But as you say, Kristie, it is a contentious election and the opposition, Mr. Raila Odinga's people, spoke to the press yesterday outside the tallying center and said that they're not accepting this. They walked out in protest. And it leaves, despite Mr. Odinga's words of conciliation, it leaves a great deal of tension in the country.

STOUT: Will the battle over the election and the debate about fraud that Mr. Odinga has put forward, is this going to continue on the streets in the form of potentially violent protests?

Or will it be waged and eventually settled in court?

SEVENZO: Excellent question, Kristie. That game, that when they address the press yesterday, they emphatically said going to the courts for them is not an alternative. They have been there before and they declared that the judgment is now out there in the court of public opinion.

Now those words, if interpreted and analyzed and dissected, could mean anything. So we've been really waiting to hear from Mr. Odinga's people, what it is that they want their supporters to do it in the event that they are still unhappy with what was announced yesterday, which is Mr. Kenyatta's reelection to the presidency.

STOUT: Farai Sevenzo, live in Nairobi for us, we thank you for your reporting. Take care.

Parts of Asia have been suffering from a heat wave.



STOUT: Now the fastest man in history is just one championship away from retirement. Usain Bolt will run his last race representing Jamaica 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 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.