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North Korea Reportedly Detonates Nuclear Bomb Underground; Hurricane Irma Becomes Category Five Storm. Interview with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- they have live fire exercises at sea. All eyes on the strained relations between President Trump and South Korea's leader. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley insists that Kim Jong-un is begging for war.

And Alisyn mentioned it. We have breaking news on hurricane Irma. This power hurricane just became even more powerful. It is now a monster category five storm with winds now exceeding 175 miles per hour. Pay attention to the forecast. We're going have that coming up. It is crucial. We have it all covered for you with the global resources of CNN.

We're going to begin with the North Korea situation. Will Ripley live in Tokyo. Will, you just completed your 14th trip to North Korea. We have a lot of development this morning.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And here in Japan, John, scientists are saying that the explosion over the weekend of that nuclear device in North Korea far more powerful than they originally thought. They're now saying essentially this nuclear bomb that was tested deep underground in a mountainous region near the border with China creating a magnitude 6.3 earthquake was stronger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

And North Korea playing up the success of that test with a new threat this morning. I'll read you a part of it that was published in state media. It says, quote, "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 amok to cut of the lifeline of the DPRK." Very strong words.

Also strong words from the Russian president Vladimir Putin who is saying that the world is headed towards a global catastrophe where there will be a great number of victims if the United States doesn't change its strategy here. Putin continuing to insist that sanctions and pressure will not work, that they will be a dead-end road, even comparing the situation in North Korea right now to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, saying that North Korean should watch what happened to Saddam Hussein because it could very well happen to them. Ominous words. And Putin will be hosting a North Korean delegation in the coming days in Vladivostok, Russia, for an economic forum along with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and the Japanese prime minister, Sinzo Abe. And I can tell you when I was in North Korea last week speaking with

officials there, they are not backing down. They are defiant and they are angry at the United States. And with these reports of possibly another ICBM launch imminent with a possible missile being rolled towards a launch site off the North Korean coast, this situation in this region could escalate even more than it already has.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Will, we'll be back with you for more information momentarily. Stand by.

South Korea, conducting a second day of live fired drills at sea, vowing to, quote, "destroy and bury the North" if provoked. But there are growing concerns that President Trump and South Korea's president are not on the same page. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with the latest there. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, South Korea is really trying to send a message to North Korea at this point, a military message, the second live fire drill in two days. This time at sea, it impeded a 2,500 ton frigate patrol boats, guided missile ships. We're being given images as well from the South Koreans because they want Pyongyang to be able to see this.

Now, there was a very interesting statement from the Navy itself saying that wherever it is, whether it's on or under the water, if North Korea provokes, we will immediately destroy them and bury them at sea. That is the kind of phrase we're used to hearing from North Korea, but now we're hearing it from South Korea. They're really stepping up their rhetoric and trying to point out they are able to target the enemy's leadership if need be. That's what we heard on Monday, putting Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader on notice.

Now, we do know also the U.S. president Donald Trump has now spoken to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. There were concerns in this country that they haven't spoken since that nuclear test despite Mr. Trump having spoken to the Japanese leader twice in 24 hours. They have both agreed to maximize their efforts on North Korea using all the tools at their disposal. From the South Korean point of view, they would like to see more U.S. military asset the in the region. John?

BERMAN: Paula Hancocks for us in Seoul, thanks so much.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says enough is enough, telling the United Nations Security Council that Kim Jong-un is begging for war. So what can the international community do to stop Pyongyang's nuclear threat? CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. Nikki Haley making the case at the United Nations that the maximum needs to be done on diplomatic action and sanctions, but then she had a dire warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show he is begging for war. War is never something the United States wants. We don't want it now. But our country's patience is not unlimited.


STARR: Now, the North Korean situation likely to come up several times during President Trump's day today.

[08:05:04] He is scheduled to meet with his national security team, get an intelligence briefing, and also with his economic advisers. Here at the Pentagon, what we're waiting for is will there be an announcement of any additional U.S. military forces headed to the region for their part in any drills, exercises, so called show of force? So far no word on that from here. John, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Barbara, thank you very much for the update. Let's bring back Will Ripley. We also want to bring in "Daily Beast" columnist and author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on the World," Gordon Chang, and president of the Eurasia Group and editor at large of "TIME" Ian Bremmer. Great to have all of you.

Gordon, 24 hour ago you sat right here. We spoke about the latest developments. Since then there have only been more troubling developments. North Korea has put out an announcement that they are going to annihilate the U.S. mainland and they appear to be moving and ICBM somewhere into place. So what are we to make of these developments? Is this more saber rattling or is something truly changing?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Well, the one thing that is going to change is the North Koreans are going to fire a ICBM, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. They fired off two-stage ICBM's in July. This one could be a three- stage. We know they have a KNO-8. They showed it to us in April, 2012, for the first time. They haven't tested it. So I would expect them to do something that will really take us by surprise. So I'm looking for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch, but one which is going to be different than the ones in the past.

CAMEROTA: And what does that mean? What would that look like?

CHANG: Well, it would have certainly much more range, and also in April parade this year, the North Koreans showed off an enormous canister on a mobile launcher. It looked like the canister that the Chinese use for their PF-31 or their PF-41 missile. That has a range of at least 8,700 miles. That puts virtually all the U.S. at risk. I don't know exactly what is being transported westward across the Korean peninsula, but I'm sure it's going to be something that will, again, grab us at a very emotional level, like this detonation of the bomb.

BERMAN: The technology keeps on advancing. They may now have a hydrogen bomb. They may have a three-stage ICBM if Gordon's projection is right there. Ian, the question is what can the United States and other countries around the world do about it? The "New York Times" David Sanger reporting this morning they're trying to talking about trying to cut off fuel to North Korea. Of course 95 to 100 percent of the fuel to North Korea goes through China. Is that realistic?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT OF EURASIA GROUP: That's one big piece of it. Second big piece would be cutting off North Korean's rights to work in China. That's a lot of source of hard currency that the North Koreans get back for their own coffers. It's impossible to imagine that China would actually countenance those steps.

Trump said over the weekend that he would consider cutting off any country that continued to trade with North Korea in terms of their economic dealings with the United States, probably the single least credible threat that he has uttered since he's become president given the impact that U.S./China trade relations actually have on Americans and our economy.

But that's what we need to watch, the U.S. China relationship. Trump has been trying to find ways to push the Chinese not just on North Korea but on a host of economic issues. For many months now he's been frustrated that his own advisers have been unwilling to give them the tariffs he wants to show that he can play hardball against the Chinese. This escalation on North Korea issue and the inability/unwillingness of the Chinese to push the North Korean's hard enough to resolve it for Trump means that Trump needs to blame someone. Ultimately he's going to find the people to blame in Beijing. The U.S./China relationship is the most important economic relationship in the world, and it's likely to get worse on the back of this crisis. That is what we should be paying attention to.

BERMAN: Blaming and convincing, though, are two vastly different things. He may blame them, but he convince the Chinese to do what he wants them to do?

BREMMER: No. No, he can't. And I think that that's part of the problem is that ultimately, the reason this crisis continues to exist and get worse over decades is precisely because it's very hard to push the North Koreans enough. The Chinese are not happy with the fact that the North Koreans are testing these weapons. We're now seeing 15-0 votes, unanimous votes at the Security Council against the North Koreans. It's hard to get the world unanimous on anything these days, but China's level of influence and their willingness to actually use it given the fact that if anything blows up in North Korea, it's a hell of a lot closer to them than it is to us, is not aligned with that of the United States. And so ultimately that's why I think the likely near term implications here are that U.S./China relations get worse, not that we suddenly start working with the Chinese and have some sort of breakthrough.

CAMEROTA: Gordon, what do you think? If President Trump cannot cajole the Chinese to help then what?

CHANG: I think there are things that we can coerce them. And for instance, we know that Bank of China was named in the 2016 U.N. report for money laundering for the North Koreans. [08:10:06] We could actually sever it from the global financial system

by merely enforcing U.S. law by declaring it to be a primary money laundering concern and actually not permitting it to use dollar accounts. That would rock the global financial system, but more important, it would rock the Chinese financial system, the Chinese economy, and indeed it could destabilize the Chinese political system.

Xi Jinping in a very sensitive time in the run up to the 19th Communist Party Congress which starts October 18th, doesn't want things like that to happen. So President Trump could actually change things if he's willing to do things that we weren't considering a couple months ago. And in order to solve this he's going to have to do these types of big ideas. And I think that essentially we've got the tools, we just don't want to use them. So I do believe that we can solve this. We can get China to act in ways which are inconceivable, but we have to exercise political will.

BERMAN: You keep your phrases like "solve this." It does get to the idea of what is the endgame here, what's the actual goal? Because North Korea has nuclear weapons, North Korea has intercontinental ballistic missiles it seems, and may even have more complex ones within the next few hours. Are you going to get them to get rid of them?

BREMMER: Trump's saying that North Korea has to get rid of their nukes is very akin to Obama saying that Assad must go. It's great in a sound bite. We have no way to get from here to there. We're not willing to exercise the political will or the extraordinary costs around it to force that to actually happen. Eight years later, Assad is still there. In eight years more, North Korea is still going to have nukes.

There is a possibility that through both coercion and negotiations we might be able to freeze their tests going forward, but the idea they're going to get rid of a nuclear program, if you're Kim Jong-un, you see Gadhafi, no nukes, dead. You see Saddam Hussein, no nukes, dead. You see Kim Jong-un, nukes, he's got a hell of a stronger seat at the table. In fact even the Chinese are less willing to push him around.

Clearly, I don't want to -- I can't say what he's thinking. But the fact is that it makes sense for a country, a rogue nation like the North Koreans to put everything on the fact this they have to have this program, and the fact that the Americans are unwilling to recognize or countenance that is kind of a blind spot for us.

CAMEROTA: Will, from the region and all of your reporting, weigh in on all of these theories.

RIPLEY: That's exactly the point Vladimir Putin has been making when he mentioned Iraq specifically and said that the North Koreans should remember what happened to Saddam Hussein. I don't think we can expect to see a whole lot happening from China, frankly, because Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is very focusing on his party Congress next month where he's trying to consolidate his power. This is an unwelcome annoyance and distraction for him. However, Vladimir Putin seems to be ready to really step into to this

role as peacemaker, as bizarre as that sounds. He's hosting an economic forum beginning tomorrow in Vladivostok. China and the U.S. will not be there, but a North Korean delegation will along with a South Korean and Japan. So Putin will be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, delegates for North Korea, and I think it's no coincidence that the messaging right now is warning that sanctions in his view are a dead-end road. He's been saying that for days now, warning that if this situation continues as it's going at the current moment it will be a global catastrophe with a number of -- high number of victims.

Russia is saying essentially what North Korea has been saying in recent days as well. But as far as from the North Korean perspective and conversations that I've had repeatedly, there is no way in hell they're going to give up these nuclear weapons, absolutely not. They have come this far. They have it written in their constitution since 2013 that they're going to be a nuclear power. They are basking in the glory of this huge underground nuclear explosion that they created over the weekend, and they are getting ready possibly to launch another ICBM to make the point that they have the warhead, they have the missile. And whether they've married them together or not, it's certainly a very strong and defiant message to the U.S. and the Trump administration.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all of your expertise. Obviously we will speak with you over of the course of the next hours and days.

We do have to get to other breaking news right now because hurricane Irma has intensified rapidly into now a category five storm. That means it is packing winds of 175 miles per hour. Hurricane warnings are up for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. This monstrous storm is now posing a major threat to millions of people in Florida. So let's goat right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the latest forecast. You predicted within the past few minutes, Chad, and now here we are.

[08:15:02] CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we just watched the hurricane hunter aircraft fly through it, Alisyn, and we saw wind gusts of 186, 192 aloft where planes fly, 5,000, 7,000 feet, that's where those hurricane hunter aircraft fly. But the fact is now the winds are getting down to the surface here probably close to 175.

So, Anguilla and the BVI, and U.S. Virgin Islands, you were under warnings. And it's a done deal for you. You are going to get this storm. You are going to get the track of the stormy right over some of those islands. If you do, the winds at 175 will be devastating.

As we move it along into the D.R. and Haiti, there's a lot of mountainous areas here. That may tear the storm up a little bit. But notice what happened at the 8:00 advisory. This number at 5:00 said the storm in the Florida straits somewhere around 130. Now, it says 150.

So, that's even more impressive because the storm back here is more impressive. There are mountains in here and those mountains will catch some of the rain, it will tear the storm up just a little bit. So, this track, although not quite set in stone, is certainly pretty, you know, obvious where this thing probably goes. The storm size may still be significantly different from where we are now.

Let me just say this. If it you're retired in south Florida and you have kids in Michigan, time to go visit. That's for at least for now. I mean, this is still four to five days away. But why hang out?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Sure looks like.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Those models, all of them very, very ominous-looking.

Chad Myers, thanks so much.

We do want to note, we will speak to the National Hurricane Center very shortly to get their view of the situation.

In the meantime, the U.S. goal has always been to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. But does this weekend apparent hydrogen bomb test mean that the U.S. needs to accept that North Korea is now a nuclear power? We will ask a key member of Congress, next.


[08:20:12] BERMAN: South Korean intelligence believes that North Korea may be moving an intercontinental ballistic missile for another launch. U.S. officials have said that a nuclearized North is unacceptable. But does this latest breakthrough mean that view needs to change?

Listen to what CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby told us just moments ago.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I believe denuclearization the peninsula is the appropriate outcome over time. But they've -- you know, 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 the 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, you know, starting with the -- well, you know, they're never -- we're never going to accept them having this capability, I just think that that's Pollyannaish at this point.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for more being with us.


BERMAN: Is it time for the United States to accept and recognize that North Korea is in fact a nuclear power?

KINZINGER: Sure. Yes. If you're ready to recognize Iran is a nuclear power, South Korea to become a nuclear power, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, any country in the world that decides they want to have nuclear weapons now. We'll never be able to stop if we just accept North Korea.

It's always amazing to me by the way to hear these former members of the administration like Mr. Kirby get on there and say now this confrontation of North Korea to say, look, we can't have nuclear weapons is how many to you Pollyanna, when, in fact, he was part of an administration that -- I've never heard anything about North Korea under the prior administration, and I'm not one of these guys, by the way, that goes back and points to the prior administration to try to take heat off the current thing. But this is where we are today.

And so, these folks that are on TV saying any confrontation against North Korea, any attempt to bring China on board is just not going to happen. We need to take a step back, take a deep breath and figure out how to hold hands and get together and get rid of this, it's not going to happen.

BERMAN: You do acknowledge North Korea does have these weapons?

KINZINGER: Yes. Well, they do. And I think to say that we're now going to move away from the idea of a denuclearized Korean peninsula is one thing. That is a change of policy. That basically says we now accept that they have nuclear weapons, not just simply that we understand they do.

BERMAN: To be fair to the admiral, he was saying long-term he does still think that denuclearization is the best plan, but he's saying in the short term, to say we're not going to let North Korea have them when we already have them, I think he saw a conflict. But I understand your point as well.

Look, I want to shift gears now to something else that is going to be on your plate, as of 11:00 today, and that appears to be the fate of 800,000 people, DREAMers in this country. Immigrants brought to this country when they were children who have been living here now under this legal statues because of the executive action of President Obama. President Trump is going to change as of today.

Let me put on the screen if we can see right now what the president wrote just moments ago about this. He said: Congress, get ready to do your job. DACA. That is the action for DREAMers right now.

Congress, get ready to your job. Can you understand, after having watched Congress for the last few years why these 800,000 people living in the United States might be nervous?

KINZINGER: Yes. Absolutely. I've been in Congress for the last few year, the dysfunction's pretty amazing. But I think -- I'm actually more optimistic we can get this done than a lot of people I heard over the weekend talk about. There's a lot of Republicans -- I'd actually say the majority of the majority of Republicans that understand that this is important. We have gotten close in the past to a deal with President Obama on immigration for instance. It was some of the talking heads you hear on the radio and stuff that really kind of canned that and made it not happen, I think, and scared people.

This is something -- if the president comes out and says he a suspending DACA in six months, but he hopes Congress gets their act to go and puts it is into law, I think we get it done. I think it's going to depend on what the tone of the president is.

As, maybe you know, I've supported the DACA program. I think people that no know other country besides the United States of America can't be sent to a country they don't know. Give them legal status, let them be productive members of society.

BERMAN: It may not be for the president that we hear any words today on this subject. It's going to be from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions holding an event at 11:00.

Jeff Sessions has had a lot harsher rhetoric about DREAMers than the president himself. But we don't know what we're going to hear. We do have to wait on that.

But do you think it's fair, again, to start a clock, you know, an hour glass, for these 800,000 people? Why put a time limit on it, if, as you say, you think they should stay here anyway? Why not Congress just get to work?

KINZINGER: Well, I agree with you. The problem is Congress doesn't get stuff done without a deadline. There's a lot of really good people in Congress, but when it comes to deadlines, that's what happened.

Look, we're taking a government shut down to the end again because that's how negotiations works. So, I think putting a clock on it, although it makes people nervous, I understand that.

[08:25:02] I think it's the way to guarantee we get something done, because even if it's five months later, and this hasn't been dealt with, the idea that 800,000 people that had been basically granted de facto legal status will now be subject to deportation, I think and hope that's going to force us to act. And that's what I'm going to spend the next six months --

BERMAN: Again, it's a hope --


KINZINGER: The broad stuff we have to get done.

BERMAN: Can you guarantee? You know, we've had DREAMers on this show over the last hour. Can you guarantee that they will be allowed to stay in this country on six months plus one day?

KINZINGER: No. Of course, I can't guarantee that.

I don't see the federal government turning to large roundups of these 800,000, but I don't see -- I can't guarantee anything like that. All I know is this is a situation we find ourselves in. I know what I'm committed to working towards. I've seen a lot of Republicans even on CNN this morning saying they're committed as well.


KINZINGER: I think if you do a whip count and see the numbers, I think it's there.

BERMAN: Almost every Republican we spoken to has said they're committed to it. There are others like Steve King in Iowa not, but most we've spoken to certainly, Congressman Kinzinger, are on board with that.

Let me ask you this: if the president makes it contingent on funding for his border wall, would you vote for it? Do you think they should be tied?

KINZINGER: Well, I don't think they should be tied. They've separate issues. But that said, I support border security. I don't necessarily think it needs to be a wall. I think you can have a virtual wall.

I've worked the border with the National Guard. There are a lot of drugs that come over. It's a real issue. I don't think the two should be contingent and tied, but I actually -- I would a fix to the DACA program and I also support border funding as well.

BERMAN: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, always great to have you on with us. Thanks so much, sir.

KINZINGER: You got it, anytime.

BERMAN: You got a lot of work to do, if you listen to the president right now. So, we're letting you get to it.


CAMEROTA: OK, John, so just what you've been talking about, the political battle over the fated DREAMers, it's already been fierce, even within the GOP. So, could the president's decision on DREAMers create somehow a bigger rift within his own party? We have two Republicans with very different views make their cases, next.