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North Korea Poses Global Threat; U.N. holds Emergency Meeting; U.S. Response to North Korea; Trump use of Military Force in North Korea. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Agency tells CNN that North Korea's latest and biggest underground nuclear test represents, quote, a new dimension of threat with the whole world at risk.

Now, one hour from now, the U.N. Security Council will meet for the second time in a week in an emergency session, while South Korea warns that yet another North Korean missile test appears to be in the works.

For its part, South Korea has carried out live missile drills and plans more and has signed off on the full deployment of U.S. defensive missile launch pads.

Now, President Trump is not ruling out a preventative strike. That has set off a new round of threats from North Korea state media agency. Here is just an excerpt. Every time the U.S. goes crazy talking about sanctions and war, our will of vengeance will become hundred and thousand times stronger. Provoke us as you wish. With our nuclear strategic weapons, we will eradicate the land of the U.S. with no trace left on earth.

We're following all the developments this morning all around the world.

Let begin with our Will Ripley, who joins us from Tokyo. Then we'll get to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

And, Will, let me just begin with you because you have been to North Korea 14 times. You returned from your latest visit this weekend. What is your take on this rhetoric and the recent escalation following what they say is a hydrogen bomb test?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that statement that you just read, Poppy, also included yet another threat at the U.S. territory of Guam. And this is South Korean intelligence says that they are observing activity in North Korea that leads them to indicate North Korea will fire some kind of ballistic missile, possibly before Saturday, which is a major national holiday. It's their Foundation Day in North Korea.

South Korea says it could be a submarine launch ballistic missile, an intermediate range ballistic missile, like the kind that they launched over Japan last week, or it could be an ICBM, an intercontinental ballistic missile, like the kind that they tested twice in July. And South Korea also believes this missile could be fired toward the Pacific Ocean. That would including potentially the U.S. territory of Guam.

It's a lot to digest after some very fast-moving developments on the peninsula. They tested this nuclear device, a hydrogen bomb, they say, over the weekend. The largest nuclear test ever in North Korea, creating a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. And then you have this apparent strife between President Trump and South Korea, criticizing that country for appeasement of the North Korean regime. President Trump also threatening China.

And then you have Japan and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who's been on the phone constantly with the president. They have had two calls just in the last 24 hours. They, obviously, have a close relationship. President Trump appreciates Shinzo Abe's flattery, the fact that Japan will never openly criticize the president. And, in fact, we spoke on "NEW DAY" with the Japan ambassador, Koro Bessho, who spoke about the tight-knit relationship between the U.S., Japan in the midst of this escalating crisis.


KORO BESSHO, JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Japan itself has not talked about military options. We've talked about, you know, going through the international community, that is the Security Council. But we do appreciate the fact that the U.S. administration, President Trump, has talked about every option being on the table. Alliance between Japan and United States is very important for Japan and we really appreciate the fact that the United States is right behind us.


RIPLEY: Poppy, that emergency United Nations Security Council meeting set to get underway within the hour.

HARLOW: It is, indeed. And we may here from Nikki Haley as she goes into the meeting. So we'll be watching for that and carry all of that live here.

You have another statement from the president this morning. And let me just read it for you. He says, the United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.

Now, he may well, Will, just have written China there, right, because that is who this is clearly directed at, because China's responsible for 90 percent of the trade that North Korea does. What do you make of that? Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he's preparing these sanctions right now.

RIPLEY: And I've been speaking to some analysts, Poppy, who thinks that this really undermines United States' credibility when talking with China about the North Korean issue because there are hundreds of billions of dollars in trade between the two countries every single year when you factor in goods and services. The relationship is enormous. And to -- first of all, it's essentially impossible to just all out

stop trading with China. This is such an intricate, economic relationship. Not to mention the fact that the economic consequences, yes, they would be disastrous for China. They'd also be disastrous for the United States and for U.S. consumers. And so you have China responding, saying that this kind of rhetoric is unacceptable, that threatening China on trade is not fair, that North Korea is a totally separate issue from the economic issue and yet President Trump has brought those two together. Could be some very difficult conversations to come between the two countries.

HARLOW: And, frankly, it's really important to note that China and the U.S. have very different goals when it comes to the ultimate outcome of North Korea and what they want from North Korea. The U.S. is not on the same page as China is in many respects on that.

[09:05:07] Will Ripley in Tokyo, thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's go now to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr is there.

And you have South Korea talking about and carrying out these additional drills and saying that their intelligence is showing them that North Korea is preparing for another ICBM test. What are you hearing in terms of preparations from the United States, given those words from Defense Secretary Mattis yesterday?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the defense secretary said two things. He said that the U.S. would be prepared if there was an attack. He said the U.S. would be prepared if there was a threat. What the threshold may be for some U.S. military option probably remains deliberately, publicly unclear. They want Kim to believe that they would respond with that overwhelming mass of force if he was to threaten or attack.

You know, all -- everything's in place that would ever be needed to carry out most of these options. The discussion, I think, right now is whether or not you want to send additional military assets to the region in some kind of so-called show of force. Does it make a difference if you send an aircraft carrier? The U.S. has done that before. The North Koreans are very well aware that manned U.S. aircraft, not very likely to fly into North Korean air space. Do you want to send more missile defense? Do you want to send more bombers to Guam that could both protect Guam and fly over the South Korean peninsula?

So we're not hearing anything specific yet. But it does seem to be the same general range of options are on the table, plus the message from Secretary Mattis to Kim Jong-un that if he threatens, if he attacks, the U.S. would have the capability for a massive response.


HARLOW: He made that very clear with those remarks yesterday.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much. Joining now to discuss, CNN military analyst Major General James

"Spider" Marks and Laura Rosenberger, director at the Alliance For Securing Democracy. She's also a former national security council director for China and South Korea under President Obama. She served as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

It's nice to have you both here.

And, General Marks, let me begin with you. The supposed h-bomb test that was carried out -- that's what North Korea says it was. According to "The New York Times," the power of that is so great that would surpass the power of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now, given that, and given this response from the president, how do you think it changes the calculation? Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?



HARLOW: Will you attack North Korea. We will see. What changes now?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Poppy, I think the fact that this was a hydrogen bomb, at least the scientific evaluation is that it was -- it's a distinction without a difference. North Korea is a nuclear power. This is another step in the direction of a more fulsome capability that they're going to have.

I think the key thing in our mind that we need to really keep first and foremost is that military preparedness on the peninsula is at the highest level it's ever been. It always has been a fight tonight type of an environment. But we have to change -- we have to change the dynamic a little bit. If we're serious about the possibility of a military strike in North Korea, first of all, it would be in response to a provocation by the North. The United States and South Korea would not unilaterally, provocatively go after the capabilities in the North.

We have an ability to assess, we have an ability to monitor all the missile launches that have taken place before. We've been able to get the attitude and the flight pattern of that missile to determine it's not provocative either to Japan or to our neighbors in the south or the region. If it was, the United States, number one, would take it down. And, number two, then that would open the door for a military response.

But I think we have to keep that on the table. We also have to be very, very clear that, look, the United States and South Korea are not looking at the reunification of the peninsula. That's off the table. We're not looking for a one Korea solution. And the denuclearization of the peninsula, I think, is aspirational, but it's a pipe dream. It's not going to occur.

HARLOW: But you have -- but, general, you have the president just weeks ago threatening North Korea with fire and fury --

MARKS: True.

HARLOW: Should it threaten the United States once again. Well now it has clearly threatened the United States once again. The words this morning, it will eradicate the land of the U.S. with no trace left on earth.

MARKS: True.

HARLOW: Did the president box himself in?

MARKS: No, I don't think he did. And, look, my point is, this type of rhetoric is certainly not helpful, but it's not relevant. What is relevant in terms of the Korean peninsula, and clearly the, you know, the target being -- the communications target being Pyongyang and the regime is what we do. It's what we say. What the president says, I think, is not particularly helpful.

[09:10:07] What is helpful is the fact that the United States and South Korea remain prepared and words -- vitriolic communications really adds nothing to this. We get whipped up about that stuff, but we shouldn't.

HARLOW: But Laura -- but, Laura, when it comes to South Korea and having the United States on the same page as this key ally right now in the region, especially, you've got in the last 48 hours the president criticizing South Korea, talking about their, quote/unquote appeasement policy that he says will not work. And then you've got leaks coming out, and "The Washington Post" reporting, that the president is strongly considering pulling the United States completely out of this U.S./South Korea trade agreement, which would infuriate South Korea. Effective strategy here?

LAURA ROSENBERGER, DIR. ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY, GERMAN MARSHALL FUND: Yes, Poppy, I have to say, I'm extraordinarily concerned with what appears to be a lack of strategy from this administration and, in particular, a failure to be coordinated with one of our really key allies in the region, South Korea.

Will mentioned earlier the number of times that President Trump has spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Abe. He has not spoken with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in since the nuclear test over the weekend. Instead, as you noted, he has tried to humiliate them on Twitter, these leaks about the free trade agreement and his, you know, considering pulling out of that.

The problem is that one of Pyongyang's goals is to divide the U.S. from our allies, to divide us from South Korea, to divide us from Japan. And what President Trump is doing and saying is playing right into Pyongyang's hands.

HARLOW: So the others --

ROSENBERG: So -- oh, go ahead. HARLOW: I was just going to say, on that point, because we just had this cross, some more information that is helpful context for what you're saying, that, you know, you've had in the last 24 hours, President Trump speaking with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan twice and then it took him, you know, there's 30 hours before he called President Moon of South Korea.

And senior officials in the White House are telling us that the president has grown frustrated increasingly at Moon's stance, which he calls appeasement at North Korea, not believing he -- that President Moon is doing enough.

Given all of that, isn't it also important to note that China has very different goals here, big picture, Laura, for North Korea and the future of the peninsula than the United States does?

ROSENBERGER: Absolutely, Poppy. You hit the nail on the head here.

It's really important. We hear a lot of talk about how China needs to do more. China has the leverage. And those are both true. There's no question that we need to see China taking further action to curtail trade, to cut off the flows of money, to cut off the flows of supplies that are fueling and providing input for the nuclear and missile programs.

But we also need to understand that China's never going to have the same interests as we do. And that's why it concerns me when we see very vague statements from the president about whether it's cutting off trade with, as you indicated, would really be implying China here, or whether it's about China needs to solve this for us. China's never going to solve this for us. And it's really dangerous if we begin to think in that way.

I do also want to say, I agree with Major General Marks on many things. Unfortunately, I do disagree with him that the president's words here don't matter. Our adversaries and our allies alike look to the president's words as a key signal of both deterrence and reassurance. And the credibility of our words matter incredibly in these kinds of scenarios.

And one of my biggest concerns with what we're seeing playing out right now is the risk of miscalculation. Miscalculation by one of our allies that thinks that the credibility of our commitments, our defense commitments, aren't real or miscalculation by Pyongyang, who misreads a signal that President Trump inadvertently sends. I think these words matter extraordinarily and I think it's really concerning that they seem to be uncoordinated from any sense of strategy.

HARLOW: Major General, I have 30 seconds. Do you want to respond to that?

MARKS: Well, I think Laura is absolutely correct that words -- words matter. But in this particular case, actions are incredibly important. If we, in fact, continue to hold, and we do, the military option as being part of the solution, we understand that there is nothing but a bad outcome that would result from that. Clearly, Kim would disappear, if that were the case. His regime would go away.

China has a different opinion about that, about what North Korea needs to look like after some type of a conflict would occur. But diplomacy must be the way we move forward.

So I agree with Laura, that in order to have a diplomatic solution, we have to have a strategy that's pretty well articulated. So the words that the president uses in terms of the message it gets to Pyongyang is much different than the message that gets to our allies. I agree, that that concerns me. We have to be able to have a very tight, cohesive alliance. And, frankly, it's never been stronger in terms of our regional focus in that part of the world. This is as strong as it's ever been.

HARLOW: General Marks -- General Marks, thank you. Laura Rosenberger, thank you both very much.

[09:15:05] Ahead for us, a global threat reaction coming fast and furious around the world to North Korea's hydrogen bomb test. We are on all of these fast-moving developments.

And the president set to scrap protections we are hearing for so- called "Dreamers," or ending the DACA program amid growing backlash from his own party. What does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of dreamers currently in this country? We'll speak to one live right here.

Ahead, a massive cleanup after Harvey and a huge price tag.


HARLOW: This morning, serious challenges, domestic and foreign policy facing the White House. Escalating tension in North Korea. Defense Secretary of State James Mattis warns of a, quote, "massive military response" to any threat made to the United States or its allies.

And news that the president is poised to end DACA, that program that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, so-called "Dreamers" from deportation.

[09:20:00] Here to discuss, Eugene Scott, "Washington Post" reporter, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," and David Drucker, political analyst in Washington. It's so nice to have all here.

Eugene, let me begin with you. The president, when it comes to North Korea, has not minced his words. He hasn't detailed what he would do but threatened fire and fury, right, if there were even another threat from North Korea.

Now there's been another threat from North Korea, saying they will wipe the U.S. off the face of the earth. What plays does the White House have in its playbook that could actually work?

EUGENE SCOTT, "WASHINGTON POST" REPORTER: Well, he said, actually, he's trying to figure that out himself. Defense Secretary Mattis saying that he would be talking to the president to explain what the options are.

We have to realize that this whole issue is relatively new to the president and so the approach that he is taking is not based on having a deep amount of knowledge on these issues and so the response --

HARLOW: Yes, but his team does.

SCOTT: His team does, but the reality is that they don't know yet what they want to do because they're still trying to figure out what it is that North Korea is doing. What we do know, though, is that they are not responding to Trump's words that he needs to back down and they don't seem to be (inaudible) would hope they would be.

HARLOW: So, there's a new reporting, Caitlyn, interesting from our White House team in D.C., that the president is increasingly frustrated with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. He called it appeasement policy in his tweet yesterday about South Korea.

He called Shinzo Abe twice, he took 30 hours to call Moon. He is threatening, according to "The Washington Post" to pull out of trade agreements the U.S. has with South Korea, which would infuriate South Korea.

That would really please the president's base. It certainly would, but what is the end goal there? Would it be effective to anger one of your most significant allies in the region?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": I think this issue, to your point, represents the way in which Trump's campaign promises are coming to reality here with these foreign conflicts.

Remember, he campaigned, of course, on withdrawing from different trade agreements, talking tough on trade with other countries, from withdrawing U.S. presence around the world. So, all of these things are kind of coming to a head here in North Korea.

In many ways, the president is left with little options, very few options. Experts say there are no really great options left. The president is also learning kind of the diplomatic routes here, right?

He thought he could have a relationship with the Chinese president, thinking that the Chinese president could be tougher on North Korea. A lot of people said that wouldn't happen. He's realizing that now.

Trade, of course, was an issue in his relationship with the Japanese president. Now these relationships have changed and morphed. Lots of people were concerned about that threat, that chiding of South Korea, when that country is going to be a really key ally here.

HARLOW: So, David, listen to what former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday talking about two things that he fears when it comes to how the president is dealing with the North Korea situation. Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN (RETIRED), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I fear two things, the tweet that just goes out at 5:00 a.m. and unintentionally creates effects that make this is go to a place we don't want it to go. The other one is this. We got into a duel with the North Korean chairman, with Kim Jong-un.

If we had a choice of weapons, I think it was a bad choice to get into a hyperbole contest with that kind of guy, Mr. President. It's not a manhood issue. This is a national security issue. Don't let your pride get ahead of wise policy here.


HARLOW: This is a guy who worked in very key positions in national security under President Bush and President Obama. What do you make of that?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this administration has been very interesting. I don't think you can fault the administration for trying to change the game when it comes to North Korea.

Because three successive administrations that have come before this one tried all sorts of carrots and sticks, all sorts of diplomatic efforts, none of which has worked and it's one of the reasons why we're now in the position that we're in.

HARLOW: What Hayden is saying --

DRUCKER: Right. But --

HARLOW: What Hayden is saying his pride. He's worried about pride getting in the way here. Is it a legitimate concern?

DRUCKER: Well, of course, it's a legitimate concern because with President Trump there's always the issue of who is the alpha male. That seems a very important thing to him.

What I would say, though, with the administration, it seems to be anyway sense -- like a two-headed operation here. On the one hand, you have General Mattis and General McMaster, the national security adviser sort of running a very conventional, careful, strategically cohesive pushback.

Trying to keep our alliances solid in the region, trying to make sure that North Korea knows that there are consequences to its actions. That's a very necessary part of trying to deal with this.

[09:25:05] On the other hand, you have the president who is empowering his defense secretary and his national security adviser to do this. I think that's important. On the other hand, obviously, likes to speak freely and does so over Twitter.

And I think has done so in a manner which is undermined the very good work that his administration has tried to do to deal with a very difficult problem. There's nothing wrong with ratcheting up the pressure and getting more aggressive because years of diplomacy have failed.

What's important is that we do that in a way that you can deliver. You talk about fire and fury and don't necessarily deliver or think about how North Korea is going to react, when you talk about ending all trading relationships without the intention or ability to actually do that, the message that sends is there's a lot of bluster and not a lot of delivery, not unlike the way, in a sense, President Obama dealt with the Syria issue which, of course, became a very big problem.

HARLOW: Setting red lines.


HARLOW: On DACA, reporting from all sources, guys, is that the president on Tuesday is going to give it a six-month delay, six-month window and say Congress, you figure it out. It's not an immediate deportation of these 800,000 young people brought into this country by their parents illegally.

But you've got, Eugene, Paul Ryan saying don't do that. You've got Orrin Hatch. All these Republicans saying don't do that. Florida Congresswoman who is a Republican, Elaina Ross Leighton saying, POTUS slams the door on them. Some heart. These are all Republicans. This would please his base, but it's going against so many leaders in his party. Why?

SCOTT: Well, I think he realizes that his base is the group that has been with him and has gotten him this far. He is very loyal to them. Even support numbers for him are decreasing. If he wants to be re- elected, he's going to have to listen to so many of the Republicans who want him to keep DACA in place.

HARLOW: What's interesting, Caitlyn, we'll listen to his words when he utters them, today or tomorrow. All reporting is that he will give this a six-month delay, a six-month window. He could have ended DACA immediately instead he's not doing this. Is that essentially him conceding I want to end this for my base? I promised I would but I don't want this on me, Congress has to fix it?

HUEY-BURNS: Right. Leaving a lot in limbo here. I mean, the immediate (inaudible) of course, is these AGs who are pushing the president on this by making a decision tomorrow. But when you talk to members of Congress, they've had a lot of time to come up with an immigration policy pertaining to those brought here illegally as children.

As we've all followed Congress, it is very difficult to see how they would be able to get a bill together and not only consensus on a bill but get the process moving by January, February when that deadline would come.

HARLOW: When they voted on it in 2010, you had President Obama administered an executive order. Now you don't.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. And a lot of Republicans disagree with the White House making policy on this so that's kind of the issue at heart here. DRUCKER: One interesting thing, Poppy, President Trump saying he would sign this if they could actually get it done. We've lost sight of that in this analysis.

HARLOW: It's an important point. Thank you all for being here on a lot of important issues. Even though it's a holiday, David, Eugene and Caitlyn, thank you very much.

Ahead for us, Houston mayor says most of the city is now drying up from Hurricane Harvey. Now the recovery effort and the fight to fund it continues.