Return to Transcripts main page


Signs of North Korea Preparing for Another Missile Launch; South Korea Simulates Attack on North Korean Nuclear Site; Trump Expected to End Program Protecting 'DREAMers'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:58:47] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, September 4, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off this morning. David Briggs joins me. Great to have you.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: All right. We begin with breaking news. South Korea says there are signs that North Korea is preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile just one day after Pyongyang detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. South Korea responding by firing missiles into the sea, simulating an attack on North Korea's main nuclear site. So in just hours the U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting to consider even stronger sanctions against the North.

BRIGGS: President Trump lashing at an ally instead of an adversary, accusing South Korea of, quote, "appeasement," while the president's defense secretary is warning North Korea of a massive military response.

All of this as CNN learns President Trump is expected to end the program that protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from being deported. Now the move, once again, pitting the president againstmany in his own party.

We have the global resources of CNN covering it all for you. Let's begin with CNN's Will Ripley. He was just in North Korea where he's been more than a dozen times. He's live for us in Tokyo with the breaking news out of the region.

Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave, we are hearing now that a week that already began with a bang could get even more tense here in this part of the world.

There are reports out of South Korea that they are observing what they say are continuous signs that the regime led by Kim Jong-un is preparing for yet another ballistic missile launch. South Korea saying this could be a new kind of submarine-launched ballistic missile. It could be an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the kind that they launched over Hokkaido, the northern island here in Japan, last week. Or it could be even more provocative than that. It could be an intercontinental ballistic missile, the kind that they launched twice in July.

And South Korea believes that the trajectory for this missile could be the Pacific Ocean, a region that could possibly include the U.S. territory of Guam. South Korea thinks this missile could be fired at a normal trajectory, which means it would travel a further distance, as opposed to other tests where the missiles have gone up to a very high altitude but haven't traveled that far of a distance, often coming down in the waters off of Japan.

Now, this would not be entirely a surprise. North Korea has been saying now for weeks that they are preparing to launch more missiles toward the Pacific after their launch last week. They say that launch was a prelude for military action aimed at containing Guam, home to Anderson Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam, and more than 160,000 U.S. citizens.

If North Korea follows through with that, it would be after conducting their most powerful nuclear test to date and after releasing images of their supreme leader standing in front of a miniaturized nuclear warhead that North Korea says could go on a ballistic missile, the kind that South Korea now says North Korea may be preparing to launch, possibly by Saturday, which is a major holiday for North Korea, the day that that country was founded. North Korea often likes to show force on major holidays. But for them to do this perhaps less than a week after their largest nuclear test to date would take the tensions to a whole new level, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Will. Thank you very much for all of that context.

South Korea, meanwhile, showing its military might, responding to North Korea's threat by simulating an attack on the North's main nuclear test site. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul for us with all the breaking details.

What have you learned, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we know there's been a series of live fire drills by South Korea. They've had fighter jets involved. They've had surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. It has all been very visual, which of course, is no accident. They're sending a very strong message to North Korea.

And as you say, the simulation was they were attacking North Korea's assets off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. Also hearing from the defense ministry that this was also showing a willingness to be able to target the enemy's leadership. We have heard this before from North Korea. It's a very thinly-veiled threat to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, saying that this is the capability we have to take out the leadership, if need be.

We're also hearing from the South Korean side they want the U.S. to send more strategic assets, military strategic assets to the region like aircraft carriers, like bombers. We could be seeing that within the next few days if South Korea gets its way. It certainly wants more shows of force with the U.S., basically to show the U.S.-South Korean alliance is strong.

When you think about what is happening in the political arena, the U.S. president, Donald Trump, tweeting that South Korea is talking about appeasement with North Korea. That did not go down well here. And also the fact he's spoken twice with Japan's leader but not once with President Moon here in South Korea recently. That's not going down well at all -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Well, thanks.

President Trump and his national security team closely watching this situation. Defense Secretary James Mattis delivering a stern warning to North Korea from the White House. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the pentagon with the latest.

Barbara, good morning to you. The defense secretary very stern, very rarely speaks out directly to the cameras. What do you make of his reaction?


The question now still unanswered: What will the Trump administration do next? No word yet if they will, in fact, send an aircraft carrier or bomber aircraft as the South Koreans are suggesting. And in fact, President Trump continuing to try and pull the lever of trade to pressure other countries to move against North Korea.

The president tweeting, and I quote, "The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea." That would have fairly significant global implications, obviously.

As you say, Defense Secretary Mattis coming out at the White House, reaffirming the ironclad commitment to South Korea, if they are nervous about it, also very much on the military page. Have a listen.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming. We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.


STARR: Annihilation not of North Korea, per se, but perhaps of Kim Jong-un and his regime. The U.S. position is very much if Kim were to attack, the U.S. would retaliate -- Alisyn, Dave.

CAMEROTA: All right, Barbara, thank you very much for all of your reporting. Obviously, we'll check back with you throughout the program. Let's bring back now Will Ripley. Joining us also is Gordon Chang. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" and columnist for "The Daily Beast." We also have retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He's a CNN military analyst and was the Army commanding general for Europe and the 7th Army. Great to have all of you experts with us this morning.

Gordon Chang, let's just talk about real options today. Forget the rhetoric. What are the real options to deal with North Korea?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Yes, there's way too much war talk. I think the options are how do we use our economy and our financial system to deny Kim the resources to build missiles and nukes.

CAMEROTA: What's the answer to that? How do we use the economy?

CHANG: I think we talk about an embargo. And largely because, you know, we have had these serial sanctions on North Korea, including the last set, which were adopted on August 5, but they only restrict a small portion, in this case a third of North Korea's legal exports. And it doesn't even take into account the stuff that North Korea is sending to Iran, which is about $2 to $3 billing a year the Iranians pay.

So what we really need to do is go after the oil and all the other things that keeps Kim in business. If the United States is going to show some political will, and I think essentially the Chinese and the North Koreans are going to step back, and they'd be much more amenable to talking.

CAMEROTA: Even though China started -- even though China just said that it is unacceptable that the U.S. would ever issue sanctions against it?

CHANG: Yes, sure. And they always say that. But nonetheless, we cannot allow the Chinese to, for instance, use our financial system to launder money for the North Koreans. We can't allow the Chinese to sell semi-processed fissile material to the North Koreans or supply, you know, the most recent ballistic missile technology, which they apparently did.

So you know, it is going to be difficult, but we have no good options. But the better options are using our economy rather than our military to settle this. Because we don't want history's last war.

BRIGGS: Right, but Will, what can we do to that notion that the Chinese have said it's unacceptable? What can we do to pressure China into cutting off all trade with North Korea, in particular fuel?

RIPLEY: Well, the United States could impose or continue to impose its own sanctions on Chinese companies, Chinese banks, for example, cutting them off from access to global financial markets, which would infuriate Beijing.

The United States is also continuing to put on the table this potential military option which makes Beijing very uncomfortable. In fact, there have been editorials in "The Global Times," a state media outlet that often provides more hawkish views, saying that if the United States were to launch a preemptive strike, that China should actually step in. So the rhetoric heating up there.

But if Beijing actually were to think that the U.S. were serious about a military option, would they then be more willing to go beyond what they've done over the last many years that has proven to be very ineffective? I mean, I was in North Korea just last week, and every time we go in, we see Chinese cars, Chinese products on store shelves. There is Chinese oil flowing to the country, although reports of a spike in gas prices as of late.

So China does have a lot of leverage, but the U.S. also has leverage over China, given the hundreds of billions of dollars in trade between the two countries each year. You saw that tweet from President Trump, by the way, saying that the U.S. might consider cutting off trade with all countries that trade with North Korea. Obviously, that was a -- that was a thinly-veiled threat at China there.

BRIGGS: Will, you've spoken to North Korean officials about this numerous times. Is there anything that will stop their nuclear program?

RIPLEY: They say absolutely not. And they say -- and I've actually asked this specific question. Even if North Korea were to be cut off completely by China. If China were to stop trading, stop dealing with North Korea economically, North Korea says they would survive. And they point, as an example, to the great famine of the late 1990s, when there were hundreds of thousands of people, at least, dying of starvation in the country. Yet the regime, despite predictions that it would collapse, it remained firmly in control. They still were developing and launching missiles during that time. And of course, they conducted their first nuclear test just after coming out of that famine back in 2006.

And so clearly, North Korea feels that they're more self-sufficient today than they were back then. The famine was the result of economic mismanagement in the country, the collapse of the former Soviet Union, as well as a series of natural disasters.

And so the North Koreans say they've been through bad times before, and they're willing to do it again. And they say the last thing that they'll cut is their nuclear program and their missile program.

CAMEROTA: So General Hertling, that leads us to the military option, the one that Mattis was alluding to, when he said, you know, "We're not talking about total annihilation of a country, but obviously, we're capable of it." And then what Barbara Starr ended on, where she said the idea isn't necessarily to annihilate North Korea, but maybe the regime, maybe the Kim Jong-un regime. So is that possible?

[06:10:05] LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's probably not, Alisyn. And what I'd suggest is Secretary Mattis was very precise and very succinct in the words he used yesterday. And that was for a purpose. It was to buy time for the other elements of national power. He was basically saying you threaten us or our territories or our allies, and we're coming after you.

He didn't talk anything about new test, new launches into the middle of the ocean. He talked about specific threats to U.S. national territories or allies.

So with that on the table, I think that really puts -- I believe that puts Kim Jong-un back on his heels a little bit. He may continue to do the missile test. May even do another nuclear test. But he realizes that he's got to be very careful on where he launches those things. That allows the other elements of national power to start working.

Now, here's the thing. Nothing has changed in terms of the motivations of North Korea or China in this particular regard. North Korea is still very much interested in having a military strength. They want recognition on the world stage, and they want to try and improve their economy.

China will not do anything unless they see they have some advantages here. So we have to really look at the motivations of our allies in this country, as well of our -- as well of our foes -- as well as our foes in order to get something done. And just the bluster and the brashness won't do that.

We have to bring allies into the tent, as we've done before, and address the motivations of these countries and to see what they will do to change their approach. China, to increase embargoes, North Korea to stop these kind of launches. And it perhaps needs to take a new track.

BRIGGS: Gordon, to that point, about our allies, in particular in South Korea, we have 10 million South Koreans 35 miles from the North Korean border there in Seoul, and the president is tweeting about appeasement, about South Korea appeasing the North; cutting off trade with South Korea. How does that impact this entire situation?

CHANG: Well, the South Korean leadership a few hours ago wasn't very happy. You know, clearly, this is, "We Don't Like South Korea Week," because also just a few days ago before the nuclear tests, you know, there were all these reports circulating in Washington that the president wanted to send a notice of termination of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement. That's not a good idea, even though the South Koreans have been cheating on that agreement, because this is a strategic issue. And, you know, it was never a good idea to try to walk away from that deal. But this is absolutely the worst week to do that, because we need, as General Hertling said, our allies on board.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you all very much. Obviously, we'll be covering this top story and whatever breaking developments we have throughout the morning.

Now to our other top story. Sources tell CNN that President Trump is expecting to end the program protecting young undocumented immigrants, known as DREAMers, from being deported.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more details for us. Hi, Joe.


The announcement is expected tomorrow. Ending DACA in this way, with a six-month pause, would fulfill one of the president's longstanding campaign promises, also putting the burden for reinstating the program on congressional Republicans, including the speaker of the House, who said the program should not be scrapped.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the DREAMers be worried?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love the DREAMers. We love everybody.

JOHNS (voice-over): Sources tell CNN that President Trump is expected to end an Obama-era program that protects young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from being deported. The issue: one of the president's core campaign promises.

TRUMP: I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers also. They're not dreaming right now.

JOHNS: President Trump's plan would affect some 800,000 so-called DREAMers studying and working in the U.S. Two sources with knowledge of Trump's thinking tell CNN that the president is planning to delay his action for six months, giving Congress time to come up with a legislative replacement to DACA. But a growing number of Republicans are speaking out against the move.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: These kids don't know any other home. I think there's a humane way to fix this. I think President Trump agrees with fixing this. And it's got to be up to the legislature.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There are 800,000 DACA kids, kids who were brought across the border. The median age, I think, is 6 years old for those 800,000 when they came across the border. They should not be punished for the sins of their parents.

JOHNS: Senator Bernie Sanders says ending the program "would be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made," while Republican Congressman Steve King praised it as a chance to restore rule of law.

TRUMP: We're going to deal with DACA at heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget. And I have to convince them that what I'm saying is -- is right. The DACA situation is a very, very -- it's a very difficult thing for me, because you know, I love these kids.

JOHNS: Before leaving the White House, Mr. Trump's predecessor vowed not to remain silent if he went after DREAMers.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and, for all practical purposes, are American kids, and send them someplace else when they love this country...


JOHNS: Getting an outcome on DACA has been made all the more urgent due to a threat by ten attorneys general to take the case to court if there's not a decision from the administration by tomorrow, September 5. There are no events so far on the president's public schedule today -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Joe Johns live for us at the White House. Thank you, sir.

Ahead, what will the president's decision mean for DREAMers, some 800,000 in this country, and how will Republicans in Congress respond? We'll discuss with our panel next.


[06:19:28] BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN President Trump will end the program protecting young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from being deported. So can DREAMers count on Congress to pass a bill to keep them in the U.S. before that deadline?

Let's discuss with our panel this morning: CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza; CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian; and CNN political commentator Errol louis.

Chris, let me start with you.


BRIGGS: Who is happy with this decision? Because the hashtag "DefendDACA is exploding on Twitter, with people furious at the president's decision. Then you look at his immigration base. Basically, that's two people leading it, Ann Coulter, who says, "Technically, I wanted Donald Trump to end it seven months ago. Now that we're a day away from courts taking it, I wish he'd paused it."

[06:20:13] Steve King, Iowa congressman, as well, not happy: "Ending DACA gives chance to restore rule of law, but delaying it can push amnesty Republican suicide."

Who likes this decision?

CILLIZZA: Honestly, Donald Trump. And here's the reason. Because it takes the ball, which was very firmly in his court on this because of the attorneys general deadline for September 5, and puts it in Congress's court.

I know this is being read, and understandably so, given the threat to end the DREAMers program in six months, as Donald Trump ending it. But I would say what Donald Trump is essentially doing is handing it to Congress, because he doesn't really want to end it.

Of all the things in this campaign and in his presidency, early days of his presidency, Donald Trump has been the most thoughtful, insightful, I guess might be the word, about the DREAMers. He's made very clear he's very divided on it. I think what he's saying in this decision is, "I'm going to give it to Congress." And I actually think he hopes Congress finds some way through it. He can't seem to find a way.

I'm skeptical that Congress is able to pass anything big, because this is going to have to be a Republican and Democratic vote. This is not just going to be a Republican bill, because there are enough people like Steve King, particularly in the House, who I think would make it hard for Paul Ryan to just pass this, some form of protection for DREAMers, with just Republican votes.

But I actually think that's what Trump is up to. I don't think this is a secret plot, because if he wanted to, he could have ended it tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: Right, sure.

And so Errol, I mean, isn't it that his hand is being forced by these ten state attorneys general? And so, look, the president, I think, has been publicly conflicted about the DREAMers and also publicly said that he wants to do it with compassion; he wants to keep families together. So is it really that there was this looming legal battle so he had to act this weekend?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: His hand is being forced. He would have, I think, greatly preferred to not have to deal with this. This is where rhetoric meets reality. This is not a new issue by any means.

The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001, you know? And so here we are, almost 18 years -- 17 years later, and I don't think we're any closer to consensus.

I don't think Congress wants this, despite what Speaker Ryan said. I think he's going to have a ticking time bomb, you know, handed to him, a grenade that he's going to have to start juggling if it comes to him.

Because the reality is, both within the Republican conference and certainly, if they try and strike some bargain with Democrats, there is no consensus about how to proceed on this stuff. They -- there's sort of a Republican version of this that's been floating around, but then when they try to sort of bring on some of the hardliners like Steve King, it starts getting wrapped up with funding for the wall, and you're going to go right back to partisan gridlock.

Again, there's a reason that they haven't found consensus on this. The president is not going to necessarily figure it out on his own. The attorneys general are not going to figure it out in court. And there's no reason to think that Congress is going to figure it out.

BRIGGS: The difficulty, Karoun, it's probably best encapsulated by the president's own words, evolving rhetoric on this. Let's hear what the president has said, evolving over time, about DACA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We will immediately terminate President Trump's two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnety [SIC] to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.

When somebody is terrific, we want them back here.


TRUMP: They have to be legal. Look, it sounds cold, and it sounds hard. We have a country. Our country is going to hell. We have to have a system where people are legally in our country.

We're always talking about DREAMers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers, also. They're not dreaming right now.


BRIGGS: Karoun, did the president pump this, because he doesn't know where he is on the DREAMers Act?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, your montage there stops, you know, well over a year ago. And as we've heard, the president has made statements since becoming president that are a lot more sober about this and a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the DREAMers.

He seems to be somebody who's stuck between changing instincts and his base, which is not the only time Trump has been in that position. And he seems to be trying to find a way to thread that needle, which is why you say, "OK, I'm going to end the program, but I'm not going to end it immediately, because I'm going to give Congress an actual, you know, measure of time to have a chance to change this."

The issue, though, is, as the other two guests just pointed out, it's not an easy fix in Congress. But Chris made the point that it would be difficult for Congress to do something big. The key in this instance is actually to try to keep it small. Because what you can probably do is get consensus around the -- effectively, some version of the DREAM Act.

You have the Democrats probably willing to vote to a person about -- for that bill, and you have a contingent of Republicans who are willing to do the same thing, as well, who have said that, who have drafted new bills, who have partnered with Democrats, who in some cases in the Senate may have even voted for comprehensive immigration reform before. And this would be a no-brainer for them.

But the problem is you need to let leaders actually have it -- put it on the floor for that vote. And so if -- and they're not there yet.

So to have this work, the math of this, means that you actually have to have the congressional Republican leaders also be willing to kind of pass the ball over to their members and not be a blocking mechanism for those Republicans for whom it is anathema to open any flood gates to any immigrants until you step up border security. Now that doesn't necessarily mean the wall that Trump's after, but I mean, something in terms of border security.

And this has always been where these things get stuck, because Republicans traditionally want border security before anything. There's an exception that some of them have made mentally for these kids, because they're such a sympathetic case, but it's not the party.

So this can not be a Republican-only thing. It has to be a real aisle-crosser that relies, in large part, on Democratic votes with some Republicans; and that's ground the president hasn't quite tread yet. So it will be a unique thing if this can get through.

BRIGGS: Well, left in the lurch here, those 800,000 young people brought to this country through no choice of their own. No clue what their future looks like in this country.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Panel, thank you very much for all of your insights into that.

Meanwhile, there are some frantic efforts under way to get safe drinking water to the city that is very hard hit by Harvey. And now, there's a new monster storm in the Atlantic. Will it hit the U.S.? We'll tell you about those next.