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Irma's Devastation to Caribbean Islands; Floridians Prepares for the Monster Hurricane; Trump Deals with Democrat; Brexit Debates Starts in U.K.; International Leaders Struggle to Find Common Ground Against DPRK's Crisis; FEMA Running Out of Funds; U.N. Confirms Assad Regime Kills Its Own People; Pope Francis Push For Peace in Bogota. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH HOST CNN: Hurricane Irma a deadly monster storm is thrashing the Caribbean with relentless wind and rain. That is our breaking news this hour.

This is CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.

The U.N. believes as many as 37 million people could be affected by this category 5 hurricane. In killed a child in Barbuda and damaged or destroyed nearly all of the buildings on the island. The prime minister says it is barely habitable.


GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: It was heart wrenching absolutely devastating. I have never seen any such destruction on per capita basis compared to what I saw in Barbuda this afternoon. The infrastructure was damaged, all of the institutions, the school it is absolutely heart wrenching.


CHURCH: The storm also pounded St. Martin and St. Barts killing at least two people. Two more were seriously injured. This storm is one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic with winds close to 300 kilometers per hour.

Our CNN's correspondents are watching and reporting on the impact of this hurricane from across the region. Let's bring in one of them right now. George Howell is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. George, good to see you. Thankfully a direct hit was avoided wit Irma moving just north of Puerto Rico. But there was some damage. Just how bad has it been? And is the worst over?

GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: The worst as far as the storm damage does appear to be over, Rosemary. We do know that a power is out here for many, many customers. At least one million customers. Seventy percent in fact of people customers here without power. Fifty-six thousand people without water. That is another issue that will have to be addressed here. And when you look around there are some downed trees on the ground.

You can tell the power the fury that came through this island this U.S. territory. But again the good news as you rightly point out Puerto Rico did dodge a bullet here. The eye wall of this storm just to the north of the island it has moved on westward.

So now many people breathing a sigh of relief and quite frankly, we will have to assess with light of day exactly how bad the extent of damage is.

CHURCH: And of course we will take the good news where we can. But talk to us, George about just how prepared people were for this monster storm a how different was the preparation compared perhaps to hurricanes that have approached in the past.

HOWELL: Sure. Well, let's talk about the difference first of all. And I can just tell you anecdotally I've covered a couple of these major that have come through. And this was particularly interesting. That the wind gusts very strong. They would come and go but again one of the strongest storms that I've experienced. And we weren't even close to the eye wall. We weren't even close to the center of this storm which gives you the indication that it is very, very strong.

You point out 300 kilometers per hour very intense winds at the center of this storm that is moving again toward the United States. As far as recovery here that will take some time. You have to keep in mind the backdrop of Puerto Rico. It is an island that's dealing with $70 billion in debt.

We do know that this U.S. territory will receive federal assistance, disaster assistance along with other parts of the U.S. that are affected by this storm. But many locals here wonder what recovery looks like, Rosemary. How long that takes given the financial problems, the economic problems that already exist.

CHURCH: Yes, and that is the big problem here, isn't it? Just how long people have to do without power is a big concern there too. George Howell joining us live from San Juan in Puerto Rico. Do take care of yourself. Thanks so much.

Well, meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is tracking Irma's path and joins us now. So Pedram, Irma skirted Puerto Rico as we heard. But other islands weren't so lucky. Why is this hurricane so massive and what it's going to mean for Florida once it hits?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: You know, it's over an element here, Rosemary, and it's an environment that is unlike any would see this point in the ocean and this point as it approaches the Caribbean. The reason I say that the water temperatures what is required to create these storms it's 28 degrees Celsius or warmer.

A city at 30 it will approach 31 as it approaches, so tremendous warmth above the threshold it needs to maintain itself. You look above the storm look for any sort of wind shear you'd want low wind shear environment, meaning winds going in different directions. There is no wind shear at all anywhere above this storm. [03:04:57] You look for dry air. Oftentimes these storms are choked

above them because of dry air moving into the system nowhere to found. So the elements are literally perfect for a textbook storm to form.

And Rosie, looking into the data of the historic storms in general, storms across the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific 2600 have been observed since 1851 when records began. Thirty-two have reached category 5 strength. Zero have been as strong as Irma have at 2600 for as long as Irma has maintained its intensity going on 40 hours over r 280 kilometers per hour.

So you notice it is moving away from Puerto Rico and very little interaction with Puerto Rico. Also key in maintaining its strength. Because the islands that it did impact in Barbuda on to Anguilla and also St. Kitts, St. Nevis, St. Marten, these regions very much to sandy beaches and essentially dunes for their highest elevations.

So, not going to do much in weaken the storm system. Islands like Puerto Rico like Hispaniola the tremendous mountain ranges would begin to shred the storm system apart. But it's essentially moving in the path of least resistance. And the Turks and Caicos, once again, you get to this location 40 low-lying coral islands that are not going to do much in at all inhibiting the storm system from maintaining intensity.

So we think devastating impact is going to be likely here inside the next say 12 hours across parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands home to 35,000 people, over a million people visit these islands every single year.

The storm surge, Rosemary, up to six meters. Generally across these islands about one to two meters is as high as you will get. So you put six meter storm surge here homes will be entirely moved off of their foundation. So this has incredible implications for millions of people before even it even arrives in the United States.

CHURCH: Yes, it is a great concern. Pedram, thanks so much for covering that. We're going to talk to you again at the half hour. Many thanks.

Well, the island of Barbuda took a direct hit from hurricane Irma. As we heard Prime Minister Gaston Browne calls the destruction unprecedented and says the island is literally rubble. He says there is no running water or phone service.

CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with the pilot who flew the prime minister over the damage.


GREG SCOTT, PILOT: It was absolutely shocking and emotional for all of us on the helicopter because we couldn't just believe what we're seeing. Just that buildings gone or just a pile of rubble. Rooftops gone. Water everywhere. It's a flat island and water is just not running away. It's just water everywhere so people are waiting through water to walk down the road. It's just unbelievable. It really is. ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: I know you've been flying for some 18

years. I mean, have you ever seen anything like this?

SCOTT: No, I haven't. When I first got to Antigua I've seen some damage from hurricane Jose and you know that's kind of shocking but nothing like this. This was unbelievable. And the prime minister said the same thing. It's just he's never seen anything like it. It's just unbelievable.

COOPER: It looks from the pictures like you were able to fly pretty low. Are you -- were you seeing people on the ground there?

SCOTT: Yes, we were able to see people on the ground. I wanted to make sure the prime minister got a good view of what had happened, and yes, we could see people walking around. We saw one guy up on his roof already trying to repair it. So I guess so it doesn't leak tonight or the next couple of days because we had another one coming.

COOPER: And are there rescue or recovery assets in the area that you could see?

SCOTT: They -- what we had hoped we would see something from the French from the French islands but they are all busy taking care of their own problems in French St. Martin. So, but there will be some response. We got a couple international organization that will probably start to get into action.

And tomorrow we are involved going to be moving water and supplies. The Coast Guard boat will probably they'd be able to get on the seas now that they've gone down and start moving things over. We're going to be very busy tomorrow.


CHURCH: The aftermath of hurricane Irma will keep disaster relief agencies busy across the Caribbean. And we want to get more on this. Josephine Shields Recass joins me now on the line from Port of Spain in Trinidad. She is with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Thank you so much for talking with us at this very difficult time.

JOSEPHINE SHIELDS RECASS, RESEARCH PROJECT COORDINATOR, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS: Thank you, Rosemary. Thank you very much for your interest in what we're doing here in the Caribbean and also using this medium to express our sympathies for the losses in Harvey as well, I mean, in Texas.

CHURCH: And Yes. And it just has been so extensive hasn't it? What's the Red Cross doing right now in preparation for its massive response to hurricane Irma?

RECASS: Thank you very much. We have in fact started the preparation in a few days prior in terms of immediate issues on islands. But we also have a very strong disaster risk reduction program in which we work with communities to prepare themselves for emergencies such as these ones. [03:09:59] Of course, as you know that this is an unprecedented impact

on Antigua and Barbuda and also the rest of the Caribbean with hurricane Irma. So, even with our best preparedness effort things of this nature would actually overall exceed our expectations to be able to assist and effectively responds, and hence, we will need additional support.

In terms of our own immediate response we have in fact relief over 120,000 Swiss francs from our disaster relief emergency fund from our emergency headquarters in Geneva and we have been using that support to directly bolster the preparedness efforts in Antigua and Barbuda and also in St. and Nives which was forecast to be directly in the line of prior from hurricane Irma. But in addition -- go ahead. Sorry.

CHURCH: Sorry. As you've been speaking to us of course we've been taking some aerial shots there.


CHURCH: Just showing the vastness of this damage. It's just extraordinary. There is so little left in some areas. What will be the biggest challenges for your organization in the days ahead?

RECASS: Absolutely. The biggest challenge for the moment really is to get reliable information. I mean, access to the area is pretty difficult at the moment. The airport is closed on Barbuda. Luckily, despite the initial projections from the storm we had more or less manageable damage from the hurricane on Antigua and we are grateful for (Inaudible) We had damages and not as bad as what we've seen as (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).

CHURCH: ... the storm gets closer.


RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This is serious and we cannot take chances. This is life-threatening. This is not a storm you can sit and wait through. I cannot stress this enough. Get prepared. Know your evacuation plan. Listen to the local officials.

[03:15:04] This storm has the potential to devastate our state and you have to take this seriously.


CHURCH: And many people are heeding the governor's advice packing up and heading out.

CNN's Kyung Lah reports.


KYUNG LAH, SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Irma's force already slamming the Caribbean across Miami prepping and bracing for the monster coming.

How much is Harvey hanging over everything that's happening to you today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think because we all just saw the images and devastation and loss and heartbreak and assistance that people are giving each other I think people are really taking this seriously.

LAH: Florida counties and state government taking the barreling cat 5 hurricane very seriously. Mandatory evacuations began out of southern Florida's Monroe County. More evacuations coming Thursday in parts of Broward County. The big concern with Irma the storm surge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So these are pretty much state of the art flood panels.

LAH: So you're expecting a 5 foot storm surge potentially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potentially, yes. So, hopefully it doesn't get that bad.

LAH: What is already bad trying to get the basics. Some gas stations already out of fuel. This one told us they don't know when they'll be able to get more. Trying to get bottled water? This site greeting shopping across Miami-Dade County.

No water out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No water out there at all. No home depot, no public was running out of them. CVS had no water. Walgreens had none at all.

LAH: Catherine finally got some water after seeing people fight over it in other stores. Here's what she heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you get some but I'm not giving out my water. People are even asking to buy from him from his own cart.

LAH: People are fighting for water.


LAH: Many gas stations especially those in central Miami we saw are completely out of gas. Some say they believe that they will see new supplies new fuel trucks coming in. Others say they have no idea if any more is coming in.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Homestead, Florida.

CHURCH: President Trump handed the fate of America's DREAMers to Congress. Why an unrelated deal with the democrats could have a direct impact on those young immigrants.

That is still to come here on CNN. Plus, a key test for British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit strategy. We will go live to London for a look at what's at stake. We're back in a moment.



BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Category 5 land falling events are very rare if my memory serves me correct. We only had three category 5 storms since 1851. So if this did make landfall as a cat 5 we would be breaking a record here.


CHURCH: OK. You heard it there. Hurricane Irma could turn into a record setting storm. And it is a deadly one as well.

[03:20:01] So far at least nine people have been killed as it leaves the trail of destruction across the Caribbean. Irma's exact path is uncertain but forecast suggests it will side swipe the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic next and it could hit southern Florida in the coming days.

Well, Florida Governor Rick Scott says President Trump has offered the full support of the federal government and Mr. Trump says emergency officials are already there to help.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, now we're getting ready to respond to hurricane Irma and these incredible people that we have at FEMA and the other groups they thought they'd get a night of sleep one night just one night. They're not getting anything. They're right now going to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and they're already there.


CHURCH: Well, meanwhile, back in Washington, Mr. Trump is dealing with the fallout from his decision to end the DREAMers program. It began under Barack Obama to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Our Jim Accosta has the latest.

JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR White House CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump's message one day after terminating the program that shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation he would do it again.

TRUMP: No second thoughts.

ACOSTA: Just hours after igniting an uproar the president sounded as if he was wavering on the issue. Tweeting, "Congress now has six months to legalize DACA, something the Obama administration was unable to do. If they can't I will revisit this issue. Talking to reporters on Air Force One the president denied he was backing down.


TRUMP: No mixed signal at all. The Congress I really believe wants to take care of the situation. I'd like to see something where we have a border security and we have a great DACA transaction where everybody is happy and now they don't have to worry about it anymore. Because obviously as you know before it was not a legal deal.


ACOSTA: The president cited one surprising reason for his optimism the potential for not working with not republican but democratic leaders in Congress namely Senator Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.


TRUMP: Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen and so do I. And I said if we can get something to happen we're going to sign it and we're going to make it -- make a lot of happy people.


ACOSTA: That's remarkable given Pelosi and Schumer just blasted the president's decision on the program known as DACA.


NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MINORITY LEADER: We all know that President Trump's decision to end DACA is a despicable act of political cowardice.

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president's decision to end DACA was heartless and it was brainless.


ACOSTA: And after House Speaker Paul Ryan praised the president.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So, President Trump was right in his decision. He made the right call.

ACOSTA: But there were more surprises in store. Sources told CNN the president also blindsided GOP leaders as they huddled with their democratic counterparts and Mr. Trump at the White House. The president shocked republicans supporting the democrats' plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown. Pushing that deadline to December, though Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell insisted afterward he was on board.


MITCH MCCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I will be adding that as an amendment to the flood relief bill that's come over from the House on the floor. And I will be supporting it.


ACOSTA: Republicans sounded so irritated by the meeting. One aide vented about Ivanka Trump's interrupting the gathering saying quote, "Toward the end of the meeting Ivanka Trump entered the Oval Office to say hello and the meeting careened off topic. Republican leaders were visibly annoyed by Ivanka's presence." An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan disputed that account saying that's not true.


TRUMP: Come on, bring Ivanka up. She actually said, "daddy, can I go with you?" I like that right? "Daddy, can I go with you?" I said, yes, you can.


ACOSTA: And a tax reform speech in North Dakota the president seemed to touch on the upside down day on Capitol Hill.


TRUMP: Mitch and Paul and everybody Kevin and we walk down and everybody was happy. Not too happy because you can never be too happy. But they were happy enough.


ACOSTA: Some of the republican reactions to the president cutting a deal with democratic leaders on the debt ceiling and hurricane Harvey were swift and harsh. In the words of one House republican aide the president simply folded on the deal.

Jim Acosta, CNN the White House.

CHURCH: A congressional investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia is moving forward as well. Mr. Trump's son Donald Junior will meet with staffers from a Senate panel later Thursday. The committee's ranking member says he'll appear in a public hearing at some point too. Whether he comes willingly or is subpoenaed.

On Wednesday, Facebook told Congress that it sold ads to a so-called Russian troll farm. That was trying to target American voters in the 2016 election.

[03:24:58] Ads focused on divisive issues from gay rights to immigration. Investigators say they are still trying to learn more about how those ads were targeted and Facebook acknowledges there may be more ad buyers that have yet to be identified.

Australians will get to vote on whether to legalize same-sex marriage. The high court ruled a national postal vote will go ahead despite a challenge by marriage equality advocates. They argued the voluntary non-binding postal vote is unnecessary since parliament could act on this issue at any time.

They also raised concerns about whether a lengthy national campaign could end up being damaging. The ballots will be mailed out next week.

Well, Thursday is a landmark day for Brexit as the British parliament begins two days of debate on the European Union withdraw bill also known as the repeal bill. This legislation is key to the U.K. government's plans to exit the block by 2019.

Our Max Foster joins us now from outside the House of Commons with more. So, Max what's at stake here and how big a test will this likely be for the British prime minister, and of course her leadership?

MAX FOSTER, HOST, CNN: Well, parliament here, Rosemary, just back from a summer recess. Straight away Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a big, big test in her government. The repeal bill largely seeks to copy and paste effectively existing E.U. laws its domestic British legislation about will pave the way for when Britain leaves the E.U. two years from now.

The opposition Labour Party is set to post the bill. So this vote will test the prime minister because she'll have to deal with democratic Unionist Party as she needs to get this bill through. May made the deal which a much smaller GDP (Inaudible) to certify this disastrous performance back in the general election in May.

Now on Wednesday, the prime minister defended her handling of Brexit saying the legislation will provide certainty for business in the post-Brexit environment.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Overall immigration has been good for the U.K. But what people want to see is control of that immigration. That's I think what people wanted to see as a result, wants to see a result coming out of the European Union.

We're already able to exercise controls in relation to those who come to this country from outside the countries within the European Union, and we continue to believe as government that it's important to have migration at sustainable levels.

We believe that's going to be in the tens of thousands. Because of the impact particularly it has on people at the lower end of the income scale in depressing their wages. It's important that we bring in controls. We want to continue to welcome the brightest and the best here to the United Kingdom and we will continue to do so.


FOSTER: Well, in the run up to Thursday's debate Britain's Guardian newspaper published what it claims is a leaked document which reveals British government proposals to restrict immigration after Brexit. The Guardian report says the document is being circulated among senior officials and ministers but has not yet been signed off.

Here are some key points though from that Guardian article. "There are proposals to limit the number of E.U. migrants allowed to do skilled work here in the U.K. For instance, many will be given only a two-year residency permit and the rules allowing family members of visa holder to live in the U.K. will also be tightened."

According to the leaked document after Brexit E.U. assistance would have to carry a passport into the U.K. Many currently use a national I.D. card issued by their home country.

An income threshold test could be imposed on E.U. nationals wishing to live long term in Britain and according to the Guardian account the British government intends to strengthen its ability to refuse entry to E.U. assistance with a criminal record. So a huge amount actually at stake. It's a big moment in the Brexit process and a big moment in British history, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed it is. And we'll be watching. I know you'll be watching very closely and reporting on this. Many thanks to you, Max.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, the latest on hurricane Irma. Several more Caribbean islands in its path and many people in the southern U.S. are getting ready as well.

Plus, violent protests at a U.S. military base in South Korea. We have new developments to tell you about in the North Korea nuclear crisis. We're back in a moment with that and a whole lot more. Stay with us.


[03:30:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Hurricane Irma is pushing toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas which has ordered the largest emergency evacuation in the country's history. At least nine people have been killed in the storm.

Irma has maintained winds near 300 kilometers per hour longer than any storm in the Atlantic basin story. A grim assessment from the island of St. Martin. A local official says the hurricane left much of the French administered island damaged or destroyed. French President Emmanuel Macron says he knows the impact of the storm will be, in his words, hard and cruel.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): We stand side by side with those who in our own country a few thousand kilometers from here are destitute, have lost everything, sometimes loved ones. And that we stand with their families who in mainland France as elsewhere are living in fear. The whole country stands with them and all public services are mobilized to come to their aid.


CHURCH: The hurricane's eye passed directly over Barbuda on Wednesday. And official there says an infant was killed and most of the buildings were damaged or wiped out.

So let's check back in with our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. So Pedram, we saw how strong hurricane Harvey was. And now this monster storm hurricane Irma, is this something we need to get used to bigger stronger hurricanes to come and what does that tell us if that's the case?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes, you know when you think about these storms they are essentially heat engines, right? They get all of their energy from heat stored in our oceans. You think about our planet and in the temperature rise we've seen in the past 100 year estimated to round 1 degree Celsius.

That particular temperature rise there's been studies done by the National Laboratory of Fluid Dynamics. And they looked at these sort of temperatures and they said for every one degree Celsius increase you would expect tropical cyclones to be as much as 11 percent stronger.

So, yes, to answer your question, Rosemary, statistically with that heat energy stored in our waters, that's essentially where these are getting their energy from to continue moving forward. Something that people are often surprised to learn the heat that is created and produced and observed on our planet are increasing, is actually 90 percent of this trapped in our oceans or stored in our oceans.

So that heat energy is not something you would necessarily feel as much as it would be trapped in our bodies of water. So this has tremendous fuel essentially like jet fuel for the storms. So this is why one of the storm you get such tremendous magnitude in such a short time period. Of course we have multiple now back to back storms going category 4 and now category 5 with this particular one.

Inside a couple of weeks where of course you think the last 12 years we have not had one occur across the United States. But here we go again.

Notice this over the next several hours we think hurricane Irma will make direct landfall across Turks and Caicos. And notice a little bit of a wobble here. And on satellite imagery there is some sign of potential slight weakening with the storm.

We'll see what the National Hurricane Center says in the next two hours. But the storm could potentially weak just a hair. But it's so far above the threshold for category 5 it would almost be shocking if this dropped anywhere below a category 5.

[03:34:58] So that's what we're watching here. There is a trough coming in off of the United States. If this trough remain put and this hurricane was close to the United States right that would not impact the United States.

Unfortunately, look what happened as we approached Friday and Saturday the trough lift off towards the northeastern U.S. That gives breathing room for the storm to close in. And at this point the models have significant variations but the vast majority of them I want to bring in, Rosemary, towards eastern Florida, potentially up the eastern seaboard into the Carolinas. So we're going to follow this the next few days.

CHURCH: We appreciate that. So unnerving looking at the size of that and the direction, most definitely. Thanks so much for that, Pedram. I appreciate it.

JAVAHERI: Thank you. CHURCH: Well, North Korea -- excuse me, North Korea is celebrating

its recent nuclear test with fireworks and a parade in Pyongyang. North Koreans lined up to throw confetti and cheer for the scientists involved in Sunday's hydrogen bomb test.

It was a very different scene though in South Korea. Hundreds of protesters fought with police outside a military base where U.S. anti- missile systems are being deployed.

Authorities say dozens of people were injured in those protests.

Well, CNN has reporters covering the North Korean crisis around the globe. Ian Lee is in Seoul, South Korea. Alexandra Field is in Tokyo. Fred Pleitgen is in Vladivostok, Russia, and Andrew Stevens, he's in Beijing. Welcome to all of you.

Ian, let's go to you first in Seoul. What more do we know about this protest, and of course too, I wanted to ask you what the South Korean prime minister is hoping to achieve at the forum in Vladivostok.

IAN LEE, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, these protests were against the installation of four THAAD antimissile defense systems. Now these systems were previously going to be put in but the Korean officials sped up their installation after that nuclear test by North Korea on Sunday.

And you had these people protesting basically they just didn't want these antimissile batteries in their village. China has also objected to this saying it disrupts the balance the security balance in the region.

One thing that South Korea has been saying from the very beginning is they want to put pressure on North Korea to get them to abandon their nuclear program and that's one thing that we're seeing from Korean officials when they do go to these international gatherings to try to rally support.

And here in Seoul today there was a defense dialogue. This is a conference that brought in defense leaders from various countries. You had China represented. You had South Korea, Japan, United States, and Russia and experts here they were discussing what to do with North Korea.

We also heard from the deputy U.S. commander of U.S. forces in Korea about how he believes they should deal with Kim Jong-un.


THOMAS BERGESON, DEPUTY COMMANDER, UNITED NATIONS COMMAND KOREA: We do not want to bring KJU to his knees. We prefer to bring him to his senses to convince him to choose not to continue his destructive behavior. This requires credible consequences for not choosing improved behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEE: And Rosemary, at this conference we heard a wide range of how people believe it was best to go about to get North Korea to abandon their nuclear program. Everyone agreed with that -- with that North Korea shouldn't have a nuclear weapon but they couldn't agree on what was the best path to get to that solution.

Some people even said that they believe it's just inevitable that we're going to have to live with a nuclear North Korea, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Ian Lee, reporting for us from Seoul in South Korea. Let's turn to Alexandra Field in Tokyo. And Alexandra, Japan's prime minister is at the North Korea forum in Vladivostok. What's Japan trying to focus on here. How, what sort of approach does it want?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Look, their big concern is the safety of Japan and certainly the acceleration that we have seen in North Korea's missile and nuclear program continues to threaten the safety of people right here in Japan.

So, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is saying that the world needs to respond quickly to the threat that is posed by North Korea. He says it's the job of the international community to make sure that North Korea gets rid of its missiles and its nukes verifiably and irreversibly.

What's the action that he's calling for? Well, he wants to see tougher U.N. Security Council sanctions. That was the topic of his conversation earlier today with the Sout Korean President Moon Jae-in. The two talk about the importance of pushing forward with additional sanctions and how to bring Russia and China on board.

We know that the Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that additional sanctions against North Korea would be ineffective. But Abe and Putin have been in close communication. They spoke almost immediately after North Korea conducted its 6th nuclear test talking about this growing threat from North Korea.

[03:39:59] However, the two have different approaches here. Putin has been on the Chinese side with this proposal of a freeze for freeze. The suspension of United States and South Korea military training exercises in exchange for a suspension of the missile and nuclear program from North Korea.

That is now what Abe is backing. He says that this is not apples to apples that those drills are important as deterrent measure important to the safety and the security of the people right here in Japan.

So keep this the path forward as sanction and that will certainly be the topic of discussion between Abe and the Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet just a little bit later today. They will also be sharing a dinner. All eyes on that, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Most definitely. Alexandra Field reporting there in a very rainy Tokyo. I appreciate that. I want to go to Fred Pleitgen now who is in Vladivostok in Russia. So Fred, Mr. Putin has very much insert himself in these efforts to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. What is the end game here? And what about Mr. Putin's renewed swipe at the U.S. saying it's playing along with North Korea's provocation, what's his message to the U.S. with that?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rosemary, the Russians have certainly shown that they have a key role here in the diplomatic process. They are trying to come to terms with this current crisis with North Korea. And you know, Vladimir Putin really offered a rationale for why the Russians aren't thinking the way they are on this topic.

He said look, it's no doubt what the North Koreans are doing at this point is a provocation. But why would anyone play along with that provocation? He's obviously in that term meaning the United States that are calling for tougher measures but also to the others who were on the podium as well with them including the South Korean president and of course the Japanese prime minister as well.

Mr. Putin reiterated that he believes that tougher sanctions will not cause the North Koreans to bow down or to back down. He believed that real incentives need to be offered. And that is as Alex said really one of the key issues where he is somewhat at odds with South Korea and with Japan as well. With both of these countries saying look we need stronger measures to force the North Koreans to come back to the negotiating table.

Again, the Russians don't believe that that is going to work. One of the concrete measures that these two countries, South Korea and Japan want to discuss with Russia is a possible embargo of fuel and oil deliveries to North Korea. That is something what the Russians say they don't believe that that's a good idea. They believe that that's going to hit the people of North Korea rather than the leadership of North Korea.

So you can really feel I wouldn't say there is tension here because of that but certainly that is one point where these sides are at odds. In the meantime, you do see that both the South Koreans and the Japanese are acknowledging how important a role Russia is playing in this whole process.

Of course, we also always have to keep in mind that Russia is also one of the countries that shares a border with North Korea and one that they would be very, very concerned about if indeed tensions there do escalate, Rosemary.

CHURCH: As they sort of struggle to get on the same page nonetheless. Fred Pleitgen reporting there from Vladivostok. Many thanks to you.

And now to Andrew Stevens in Beijing. So, Andrew, President Trump and Xi Jinping spoke on the phone. But how far is China really like to go in trying to contain Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions? China is so key her, isn't it? And of course then we need to know what it will do. That's the frustration for the United States.

ANDREW STEVENS, ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR, CNN: That is the frustration for the U.S. You're absolutely right. China does hold the key because 90 of North Korea's trade goes through China. But more important perhaps is it's all about oil. China at a moment's notice can cut off the oil supply to North Korea.

Now, expanding on Fred's point, the fear that China has if you do take that action and the U.S. wants to say that that's what we're expecting the U.S. to be pushing with sanctions, China says if you do take that action it will destabilize North Korea to the point where it could actually collapse and that is an absolute red line for China.

They will not let that happen. They would rather, most people you speak to here, have a nuclear North Korea even though President Xi Jinping continually says we are working for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

As you say he spoke to Donald Trump it was a 45-minute phone call according to Donald Trump. And Donald Trump said it was a very, very frank discussion. It was a very strong discussion and he said we are not going to be putting up with a nuclear North Korea. And President Xi he thought was 100 percent behind President Trump.

Now it all depends on what China is prepared to do, Rosemary, to make that happen. And it does seem that China is not willing to push it to the point that the U.S. wants to push it to as far as sanctions go. So that is going to be the horse trading what can the U.S offer, how can China take part in something like this which is going to put the pressure on North Korea to the point that North Korea changes its attitude.

It's very difficult to see how they can do is. The U.N. sanctions discussions are going to be very, very tense. I'm sure a lot of people here are saying that.

[03:45:00] And in the end they don't expect China to go through with a full oil embargo of North Korea which at this stage does seem to be a key to pushing this or moving the needle, if you like, on North Korea's behavior.

CHURCH: All parties struggling for a solution at this point on North Korea. Andrew Stevens, many thanks to you for that live report from Beijing, where it is 3.45 p.m. Many thanks.

A U.N. investigation blames the Syrian government for a sarin attack that killed dozens of people back in April. The disturbing details still to come. Do stay with us.


CHURCH: Syrian army says Israeli jets fired missiles at Syrian military installations near the town of Masyaf, that's near the Lebanese border in northwestern Syria. Syrian state TV reported the strike caused material damage and killed two army personnel. Israeli defense forces refuse to comment on the reports.

Now this comes just one day after U.N. investigators said the Syrian government was responsible for a sarin gas attack on a rebel-held town back in April. It's the same attack that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air field.

Clarissa Ward reports.

CLARISSA WARD, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A deadly chemical attack that killed 83 Syrians in April was carried out by the Assad regime. That's according to a U.N. investigation published today. The attack was on opposition-held Khan Shaykhun in northwestern Syria. At time the Syrian president and his Russian allies denied any responsibility for the conduct.

The U.N. conducted 43 interviews with victims, eyewitnesses and others who had been at the scene. They also studied photos and satellite imagery concluding the Syrian government had dropped a sarin bomb on its own people.

In April, I brought you a special report about the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun. I worked with some incredibly brave Syrian journalists who captured some of the most harrowing images of this massacre. Some of which are too graphic to show you at this hour.

Chemical weapons make no distinction between fighters and civilians, women and children. In fact, it's the most vulnerable, young infants and the elderly who are the most susceptible to the effects of the gas. From the get go there were obvious inconsistencies with Russian and Syrian regime claims that this was the result of an air strike on a rebel stockpile of sarin gas.

For starters the timings they offered didn't match eyewitness accounts and videos. More importantly, experts agree that blowing up a stockpile of sarin gas would essentially destroy the gas as opposed to spreading it.

[03:49:57] To weaponize sarin gas actually takes considerable technical expertise and equipment. The U.N. says that of the 25 recorded chemical attacks in Syria in the last four years 20 have been the responsibility of the regime.

The vast majority of victims had been civilians. For those of us who have spent a lot of time in Syria the U.N.'s findings come as little surprise. What is more shocking perhaps is the presumed outcome of this report or lack thereof.

Stern condemnations for sure but with the U.N. Security Council hamstrung by Russia's veto power, there is little reason to believe that Bashar al-Assad's forces will face any real consequences for this brutal and inhumane attack which means there is little incentive for them or any rogue actors with chemical weapons in their power to stop using them in the future.

CHURCH: That report from senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward.

Pope Francis is bringing a message of peace to Colombia. He was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Bogota as he arrived in the city Wednesday evening. John Allen is following the pope from Rome. He CNN's senior Vatican

analyst and editor of Crux, an independent web site covering Catholicism.

JOHN ALLEN, SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST, CNN: Hi, Rosemary. Pope Francis today begins day two of his six-day trip to Colombia. And it's going to be a good one. This morning Bogota time he will be addressing President Juan Manuel Santos in a cross section of the country's political and diplomatic leadership.

He will of course be touching upon the country's long running civil war and the recent peace agreement intended to put an end to that conflict. Now that agreement is highly controversial in Colombia. Many critics believes it gives far too much away that the Marxist guerrillas.

We expect the pope is going to strongly endorse the peace process but try to stay away with identifying himself with this particular agreement. Later, he will be meeting the country's Catholic bishops laying out a vision for the role of the church in Colombia, a cross- section of bishops from across Latin America.

And finally this afternoon he'll be holding an open air mass in Bogota Simon Boulevard Park which is expected to draw perhaps as many as 700,000 people.

Now Colombia is a fervently Catholic country. People are very excited to have the pontiff in town, but on the other hand they're trying not to get carried away. They understand that he could provide a badly needed dose of moral leadership. But without believing that he is going to be able to wave a papal magic wand in a mere six days and make all of their country's problems go away.

So that's Pope Francis' big day, Rosemary. In Rome, this is John Allen for CNN.

CHURCH: Many thanks, John. We'll take a very short break. We're back in a moment.


CHURCH: Hearing and seeing the fury there of the powerful hurricane Irma a category 5 colossus with sustain winds of about 300 kilometers per hours and gusts even stronger. Irma is one of the most intense Atlantic hurricane in recorded history killing at least nine people so far as it pummels the Caribbean.

[03:55:06] Barbuda's prime minister says the impact on his island is unprecedented with 95 percent of properties there damaged or destroyed.

In Texas, the magnitude of another hurricane Harvey has overwhelmed government resources and it's likely to be a similar situation if hurricane Irma strikes the U.S.

Rene Marsh reports on why FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not have enough money to help every community that needs disaster relief funds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're told to evacuate, get out quickly.

MARSH: A second major hurricane is headed to the U.S. and it's one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Storm surge and extreme winds are the biggest concern right now.

MARSH: Irma a category 5 hurricane is threatening Florida nearly two weeks after Harvey devastated Texas. And it's all happening as FEMA comes dangerously close to running out of money. FEMA has just over $1 billion with $541 million of that available for immediate use as of Tuesday morning.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Are you confident that Congress will set aside enough funding for FEMA?



MARSH: Wednesday the House approved $7.8 billion in relief aid but the aid package now in the Senate has gotten political with relief funding being tied to raising the debt ceiling.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida and they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? That will strand the aid that we need to bring to these victims.


MARSH: Even if the 7.8 billion in relief aid passes Congress, Florida Senate here say it will only cover federal response cost for about a couple of weeks and would not adequately cover resources FEMA needs to respond to Irma.


LONG: We need citizens to be involved. Texas this is a landmark event. We have not seen an event like this.


MARSH: The historic magnitude of Harvey overwhelmed federal responders causing them to ask the public for help. And that will likely happen again with Irma. Well, the response and recovery will be overwhelming for federal

responders. Despite that FEMA says that it has activated its headquarters and its regional offices and already deployed some 700 people to respond to hurricane Irma.

Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church. The news continues with our Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.