Return to Transcripts main page
South Korea: North Korea May Be Moving Intercontinental Missile; U.S. Says North Korean Leader is 'Begging for War'; Trump Expected to End Program Protecting 'DREAMers'. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired September 5, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This is according to a South Korean lawmaker briefed by their intelligence service. And this morning, new warnings from North Korea, threatening to, quote, "blow up" the U.S. mainland and annihilate Americans.
[07:00:16] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to fill the leadership void. The Russian leader warning the escalating crisis could cause a global catastrophe. He says sanctions against North Korea are useless and ineffective. All this as the Trump administration is set to announce the end of protections for DREAMers and Congress returns to a very long to-do list and very tight deadlines.
With the global resources of CNN covering all of this for you, let's begin with CNN's Will Ripley, live in Tokyo. And Will, you just returned from your 14th trip to North Korea with all of this going on.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you know, John, the impression that I got from the North Koreans, this is not a country that is backing down. This is not a country that is afraid but, in fact, a country that is defiant, that is furious with the United States, and ready to back up their fiery rhetoric with action.
And there are indications right now, according to South Korean lawmakers and intelligence officials, that North Korea is perhaps moving an intercontinental ballistic missile to a location along the Korean coast. This is a place where they could launch a missile with a trajectory over Japan, just like they did last week, or they could fire a missile in a more southerly trajectory, targeting the Pacific Ocean, including potentially, the U.S. territory of Guam, home to 160,000 American citizens, Anderson Air Force base, naval base, Guam.
North Korea has been saying all along they would only conduct a missile test near Guam. They're not actually threatening to attack Guam; but nonetheless, extremely unsettling and very provocative for the U.S.
I want to read you this new threat in North Korean state media, out this morning. It talks about the nuclear test over the weekend, their most powerful test to date. It says, "The great success of the H-bomb test, which stunned the world, reflects the faith and will of the DPRK" -- that's North Korea's Army -- "and people to blow up the U.S. mainland and annihilate the wolfish U.S. imperialists running amuck to cut off the lifeline of the DPRK." Fiery rhetoric that we have heard before from North Korea, but never
before have we seen North Korea with a weapon quite like this. Here in Japan, scientists are saying that they believe this bomb that blew up over the weekend is the strength of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
All of this, John, as Russian President Vladimir Putin warns of an impending global catastrophe with many, many victims if there's not a shift in strategy by the United States.
BERMAN: Will Ripley for us in Tokyo. Will, thanks a lot.
South Korea, by the way, conducting a second day of live fire drills at sea, vowing to destroy and bury the north if provoked. But there are a growing concern now about the strained relations between President Trump and South Korea's leader. CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul for us this morning with that -- Paula.
PAUL HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello John.
Well, this was the second live fire drill in two days. South Korea is really making a point here. This one was at sea. It was a naval live fire drill. We understand there was a 2,500-ton frigate. There were patrol boats, guided missile ships. It was a large and, we're being told, intensive live fire drill. Now, they're giving us images, of course, they want North Korea to see exactly what they have done.
And the quote that they came up within the statement is very interesting, saying, "Wherever it is, on or underwater, if North Korea provokes we will immediately destroy them and bury them at sea."
Now that is the kind of phrase that North Korea could be proud of, but this is coming from South Korea now. We heard on Monday, as well, a statement from the defense ministry, saying that their live fire drills are showing a willingness to be able to destroy the enemy's leadership. So some very strong words and actions coming from the South Korean side at this point.
And finally, we know that the U.S. president did pick up the phone and speak to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. There had been a lot of concern here that that hadn't happened since the -- since the nuclear test, and they both agreed that they will do everything in their power to stop North Korea -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Paula, thank you very much for that reporting.
So the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says enough is enough, telling the United Nations Security Council that Kim Jong-un is, quote, "begging for war." What can the international community do to stop Pyongyang's nuclear threat? CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What's the latest there, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
The U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, very much pressing the case at the United Nations that the time has come for being as tough as possible on diplomatic action on sanctions. But then Nikki Haley went on and had a fairly dire warning. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging to are war. War is never something the United States wants. We don't want it now, but our country's patience is not unlimited.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: President Trump largely staying publicly quiet on this, tweeting after his phone call -- the guidance from the White House, I should say -- after his phone call with German leader Angela Merkel was that all options do remain on the table.
[07:05:13] The president later today is likely to see North Korea come up again and again. He will have an intelligence briefing. He will meet with his national security advisers later in the day with his economic advisers in another phone call, this time with the Australian leader also scheduled.
Here at the Pentagon, watching to see if the U.S. decides to deploy any additional military assets to the region for a show of force, but so far, no word yet -- Alisyn, John.
CAMEROTA: OK, Barbara, thank you very much for the update from there.
Joining us now to discuss all of this. We have CNN military and diplomatic analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby and CNN political and national security analyst and national security correspondent for the "New York Times," David Sanger.
David, we want to start with you, and you have some new reporting. Obviously, there was this emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council yesterday, they were discussing whether to up the ante with sanctions, including fuel sanctions, possibly. What have you learned?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, what I've learned, Alisyn, is that the next U.S. move on sanctions, and probably the last move on sanctions is to try to cut off all of North Korea's fuels, heating oil, and so forth.
Now, North Korea gets about 95 to 100 percent of its fuel from China, so if you don't get the Chinese cooperation with this, President Trump would have, basically, two options. One is begin to do sanctions on Chinese institutions, banks and so forth. That would lead to a big breach with one of our biggest trading partners and would obviously cause a lot of economic pain here, as well.
The second option would be to try to figure out a way to turn off North Korea's oil inside North Korea, and that would take sabotage, cyber, some combination of events like that. We haven't heard any discussion yet of how they would go do that, but certainly, it's fascinating that they're using a technique that the United States last used against Japan in 1941, when it cut off most of Japan's oil imports. BERMAN: And David, before we move on past this subject, you say these
are all possibilities and being discussed, but it seems pretty far- fetched that you could get China to agree to stop selling any and all oil to North Korea. Seems even more far-fetched that the U.S. would engage in some kind of military options to sabotage the fuel source there.
SANGER: Well, on the first point, John, I think pressing the Chinese on this makes the point of how serious the U.S. is, that all trade with North Korea has to stop under these conditions.
I agree with you: the Chinese have never shown a willingness to do something that could lead to the collapse of the regime, and this would be one of those.
On the fuel side, inside North Korea, it raises a big issue, because of course, the United States has been trying to set some standards so that nobody ever uses cyber or other means to try to turn off energy supplies here. So doing it inside North Korea would be extremely difficult, I agree.
CAMEROTA: John Kirby, what do you think of those options?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: I agree with David. I mean, the sabotage aspect is certainly something that I think would have to be on the table, but it would be very, very difficult. This is a closed society. It's not open to the rest of the world, and not that it's impossible to do those kinds of things but very difficult. And of course, there's precedent setting there, as well.
On the oil thing with China, you have to also remember that the southern provinces in China that are all along that border with North Korea, their economies are very much dependent on trade with the North, and some of that comes from oil, as well. So China would also be willing, have to be willing to take a major hit locally in their own southern economy, and they have hitherto been unwilling to do that.
And I don't think -- I think actually, frankly, what needs to happen here is, largely speaking, the administration needs to sit down with Beijing behind some closed doors and try to work some of this out in the context of larger bilateral issues between the United States and China. China is not going to change their calculus with respect to North Korea being a buffer state unless we can make it clear to them and incentivize them to do exactly that, to realize that it's in their national security interests, the Chinese national security interests for something to be done about the North's program.
BERMAN: You know, we keep on saying something to be done about the North's program, though, Admiral, North Korea has nuclear weapons now, and just tested its most powerful nuclear device. They may be getting to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile. They have it. You know, Kim Jong-un is achieving what he set out to achieve. So what is the goal, then, for the U.S., Admiral?
KIRBY: Right. I absolutely agree, John. And I think, you know, General Hayden said this the other day. We ought to just maybe accept the fact that they are a nuclear armed state and deal with them from that perspective, and try to get -- you know, give them that credit, and then get them to the negotiating table at some point.
[07:10:09] But you're not going to get them to the table unless China is on board and Russia, too, but mostly China. They have no incentive right now to talk, because as you rightly point out, they have advanced this program now faster than anybody thought they could; and they are moving inexorably towards a ballistic missile nuclear capability. They're not going to want to give that up.
So what you've got to try to do is learn to accept that and then go from there at the table and try to regulate that, put some bounds around that, try to contain that and maybe, over time, diminish it. But I don't see any -- any chance of sort of, you know, stopping it in its tracks now.
CAMEROTA: David, how about the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea? Obviously, friends and allies for decades, now where are we?
SANGER: Well, we're in a pretty fractious point here, Alisyn, because the president's determination to move ahead with trying to pull out of the trade agreement with South Korea, which was passed, in part, to help bolster the security relationship, is really eroding the degree of trust, and of course, the president said during the campaign, in interviews with me and with others, that he would be willing to pull American troops out of South Korea if they weren't contributing more economically. He is -- to the defense effort. He has not said that since he's become president. But these two things have sowed some distrust.
I just wanted to go back to John's very important point out there about coming to an acceptance of the North Korean nuclear program. There are many people who think we need to go do that. That has been North Korea's goal all along, to basically become what Pakistan has become, a country that we basically accept now, has nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
And when I asked people in the administration, "Are you willing to make that move?", just as we would ask this question during the Obama administration, the answer has unanimously been no, that the goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, far-fetched as this may seem at this point. So it's interesting the administration is not backing off on that issue.
BERMAN: You know, Admiral, you discussed with me last night room to maneuver, space to maneuver here both in military terms and diplomatic terms.
BERMAN: And your fear (ph) that that space on both sides might be shrinking.
KIRBY: I am concerned about that. Every time, when the president says all options are on the table, what he's really saying is military options are what I'm thinking about. And whenever he does that, whenever the rhetoric ratchets it up like we saw with the "begging for war" comment from Nikki Haley yesterday, he closes down his maneuver space to achieve a diplomatic outcome here.
And the same has happened. He's pushing -- actually, and you saw this from Will's reporting just a few minutes ago. He's pushing Pyongyang into ever increasingly smaller space in terms of decision and maneuver.
Now, again I don't think they have an incentive right now to negotiate, but I think there's still room for diplomacy.
And I want to just piggyback on David. I believe -- I think denuclearization of the peninsula is the appropriate outcome over time. But that -- that horse has left the barn right now, and the only way to get it back in the barn is to, I think, start from an acceptance that they have this capability, and then try over time -- and it could take years -- to negotiate it down, to regulate it, and to eliminate it, if at all.
But I just don't, I think starting with well, they're never, we're never going to accept them having this capability, I just think that that's Pollyannaish at this point.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all the expertise and sharing your reporting with us. David and John Kirby, thank you.
So meanwhile, the Trump administration is expected to make it official today, ending protections for DREAMers from being deported. However, the president wants Congress to come up with a legislative solution over the next six months. One congressman is determined to keep DREAMers here, and he joins us next.
[07:17:55] BERMAN: In less than three hours, the Trump administration's expected to end the program that protects DREAMers from deportation, but the president is ultimately leaving the fate of those DREAMers, some 800,000, in the hands of Congress.
CNN's Joe Johns live from the White House, with the very latest -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the president seemingly has struggled with this issue for months, and this is it, apparently. Decision day. The attorney general expected to make the announcement at a briefing later today. Though there is still a sense of drama surrounding this, even now, because sources have told CNN the president could still, even this late in the process, change his mind.
President Trump taking to Twitter Monday night, touting a big week ahead. A gross understatement, considering the wide range of issues on the president's plate, starting with today's announcement on the fate of so-called DREAMers. The president is expected to end the Obama-era program created through executive order, protecting some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DREAMers here to stay! DREAMers here to stay!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DREAMers here to stay! DREAMers here to stay!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DREAMers here to stay! DREAMers here to stay!
JOHNS: This possibility already drawing backlash from both sides of the aisle.
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: What I hope the president says tomorrow is that he supports the policy of the DACA program, and wants Congress to pass it into law.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: To end the DACA program is one of the most cruel and ugly decisions ever made in the modern history of this country by a president.
JOHNS: But the president promised during the campaign that he would end protections for DREAMers. Attorneys general from ten states threatened to sue if Trump does not announce repeal of the policy by today. Sources tell CNN the president will punt the fate of DREAMers to Congress, delaying the enforcement for six months, so that lawmakers can pass legislation to address the status of those affected.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: There's a lot of Republican support for a program like this. I'm not as pessimistic as some people. I think we can actually get this done in the next six months.
JOHNS: The "New York Times" is reporting that President Trump has asked aides for a way out, comparing Trump's approach on DREAMers to President Obama's first promise as president to close Guantanamo Bay, which he was not able to accomplish.
[07:20:12] Congress returns today to a daunting to do-do list with a limited time frame to get anything done. The most challenging tasks include passing a spending bill with or without money for a border wall, Republicans looking for a complete overhaul of the tax code, the first in three decades, emergency funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey. A bill to raise the debt ceiling is expected and possibly another try at repealing Obamacare.
JOHNS: And there is not a lot of time to get that spending bill to keep the government from shutting down, only 12 legislative days before September 30. We do expect to see the president this afternoon around 4 p.m. Eastern Time, meeting with key members of Congress as well as top administration officials to talk about taxes -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, the clock is ticking, Joe. You're right. Thank you very much for the update from the White House.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and also co-chairs the Blue Dog Coalition.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: Thank you so much.
CAMEROTA: From where you sit this morning, knowing all the challenges of immigration reform and the tight deadline, what do you think is going to happen to these 300 -- to these 800,000 DREAMers?
CUELLAR: You know, first of all, I think your story said it well. The to-do list for Congress is just tremendous. And we only have a few days to get this done, a lot of them before September 30. And also, remember at the end of September 30, the budget rules, special budget rules for trying to repeal the Obamacare also leaves, so there's a lot of things that are going to happen this month of September.
My state of Texas also followed, joined the lawsuit to get rid of the DREAMers, which is a mistake. It's a mistake.
I've seen immigration reform for the last 12 years that I've seen here, and it's one of the most emotional issues that I've seen on the side of the Republican Party. And I think what's going to happen, if the president delays this for six months, it's going to make it difficult. And I hope we can pass the DREAM Act, and I'm going to do everything possible. But it's going to cause, in my opinion, a civil war within the Republican Party.
CAMEROTA: Because you think that you've heard so many people that are -- have, like, polar opposite feelings about this?
CUELLAR: Without a doubt. I mean, I know my colleagues on the floor very well. I've heard their words. Their words, some of them, the anti-immigrant folks are very strong. Without mentioning names I think you've seen some of them.
And then on the other side, you've got some Republicans that want to do the right thing. And then you're going to have the ones in the middle that are going to be pulled by those third parties that are going to go after them, that if you vote for amnesty. And as you know that's a buzzword that any time people want to do immigration they use the word "amnesty" as a buzzword to make it difficult on the moderate Republicans to do the right thing.
CAMEROTA: So it sounds like you don't know that the 800,000 DREAMers will be here six months from now?
CUELLAR: Well, I'm hoping that we can do everything that we can. I'm going to do everything. I'm going to support, like I've always done, the 800,000 individuals. When you think about it, there are 800,000 people that got here because -- not because of them but because of the actions of parents.
CUELLAR: They're registered. They've been given background, fingerprinting. They meet educational, sometimes military requirements.
CUELLAR: They've done everything right. And to get rid of that, that's a large impact to our economy. But more importantly, think about the brain power of 800,000 well-educated young folks, what that means for the United States. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot if we don't do this right.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, look, you called the people who oppose this anti-immigrant. They would say, these conservatives like Jeff Sessions say, would say you must have a rule of law in this country. We are a country of laws. We're a country of borders. If you flout the law, you can't be rewarded.
CUELLAR: Yes, but keep in mind, I understand that. But keep in mind when they have a chance to actually vote on an immigration reform, they won't do it. That's what I'm talking about is, I live on the border. I live on the border, and I see this every single day. I know what it is to live on the border. I drink the water; I breathe the air there. I don't just go in for five minutes and then leave. I've lived there all my life.
And I'm telling you, I believe in law and order, and I -- you know, I want to make sure that we follow the rules. But at the same time, what we have an opportunity, when we have an opportunity to vote on an immigration bill, what happens? Since I've been here in the last 12 years the Senate has passed two immigration reform bills. What has the House done? Nothing. Nothing at all, because we can't get our House members -- some of them want to, but we just can't get the House to vote on it. Two immigration bills that have passed from the Senate, and we still haven't done it ourselves.
[07:25:08] CAMEROTA: Very, very quickly, in terms of compromise, in order to keep the DREAMers here, would you be willing to vote for money to pay for President Trump's border wall?
CUELLAR: No. No, they're two separate things. The wall is a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century situation that we have. Are we going to -- are we going to still insist on putting money for the wall, where we have Harvey that's going to cost us billions of dollars in Texas? No.
What I want to see is sensible border security. You know, make sure we have electronics, cameras, sensors, the right mixture of personnel. Make sure that we work with our neighbors to the south, Mexico and Central America, to -- to hold off as many people from coming over. We've got to be smart on how we secure the border, instead of just coming up with a 14th Century solution called the wall.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, while I have you here, we've been talking so much this morning about North Korea, and what the solution is to North Korea. We just had two very knowledgeable guests on, David Sanger from "The New York Times," who has new reporting on sort of the behind-the-scenes dealings, as well as John Kirby, formerly of the Pentagon. They have spoken to experts who say maybe it's time to accept that North Korea is a nuclear power, accept that that is true, stop fighting it, and then go to the table with Kim Jong-un from that position.
Are you ready to accept that that's where we are with North Korea?
CUELLAR: You know, I'm not there yet, and I sit on the Defense Appropriations. I sit on Homeland, so I deal with FEMA and some of the issues that we have here. But also on defense appropriations, you know, we've heard from our experts; and it's difficult, because the options are not very nice. They can actually be very ugly. The pain that can be inflicted to South Korea as we go after North Korea can be there.
I do know that, if we are adding sanctions, what else can we sanction? Are we going to focus on petroleum? Are we going to focus on energy? But keep in mind, what is it? About 90 percent of all the trade that North Korea has is China. China is going to be key. China will be key, and if we don't get to that part, we're not going to be able to sanction anything else, if China doesn't play a role, and then we've got to look at those options.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Cuellar, thank you very much for your time. Great to have you on NEW DAY.
CUELLAR: Thank you so much.
BERMAN: All right. President Trump threatening to stop trade with some major partners if they keep working with North Korea. So is that a viable plan? A debate you do not want to miss, that's next.