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U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea; Hurricane Maria Aftermath; Search for Survivors in Mexico Continues. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 3:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And top of the hour now. I'm Pamela Brown.

We are anxiously awaiting to see whether a little girl trapped in the rubble of her school for two days now will be pulled out alive, the frantic search to find her and other possible survivors a familiar scene across dozens of sites across Mexico City and beyond, buildings reduced to rubble in Tuesday's quake.

And we now know at least 250 people are dead. Just one look at this hellscape, it is easy to see how that death toll could still rise. Rescue workers and even civilians continuing to put their lives on the line, digging on hands and knees trying to locate possible survivors.

Just incredible moments here, as a woman is pulled to safety, freedom after being trapped for two long days. Can you imagine? At least 50 people have been saved from under the debris so far. And the rescue efforts continue.

And I want to go straight now to Miguel Marquez. He is in Mexico City live for us, where another rescue effort is under way for a little girl.

Any indication, Miguel, that they're getting closer to rescuing this little girl stuck under the rubble?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think every moment that goes by, they get a little closer. I want to show you a little of the scene that's going on here.

All the people here off to my right are volunteers waiting to go in. The reason they need so many volunteers as there is because as they are pulling rubble out of the two locations that they are digging into, they think they have a position on where she is, and they're trying to get in through two different directions.

As they pull out brick by brick, scoop of earth by scoop of earth, all that out, they have a human chain of people who are moving that stuff to a pile, a central pile outside the school area.

Our Gustavo Valdes with CNN en Espanol was just back there a short time ago. They have been able to sort of shore up the building from the top, trying to keep as much weight off the top of the building as possible with a very large crane. And then they are going in from the top of the building and through the side of the building trying to get to her from two different locations.

What they will say, you asked this earlier, what they will say is they can hear sounds down there. They don't know that they can hear actual sounds from her, but they are hearing sounds. And throughout the day, we have had -- been asked to go silent. The entire area, there must be, well, at this point hundreds of people out here, it does become pin-drop silent.

People are very, very conscious of the important work being done there. And I will also say that it's become much more focused and professional today. They have the volunteers they need. They have food. They have water, everything being supplied for rescuers as they need it on the spot -- Pam.

BROWN: And what are some of the challenges that these rescue workers are facing? They have been doing this now for 48 hours.

Actually, I'm going to hold on that. Press the pause button. I want to go to Steve Mnuchin.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I have been pleased to be here with the president.

Today, the president strengthened -- he signed an executive order that strengthened the U.S. government's ability to cut off funding to the North Korean regime and its weapons development program.

Despite multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un continues to threaten the world and his neighbors with provocative nuclear and missile tests. President Trump's new executive order significantly expands Treasury's authorities to target those who enable this regime's economic activity wherever they are located.

For too long, North Korea has evaded sanctions and used the international financial system to facilitate funding for its weapons and mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. No bank in any country should be used to facilitate Kim Jong-un's destructive behavior.

This new executive order will authorize Treasury to impose a range of sanctions, such as suspending U.S. correspondent account access to any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea.

These sanctions will be forward-looking and applied to behavior that occurs following today, when President Trump signed the executive order. Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both. This new executive order enables Treasury to freeze assets of anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea.


It also allows us to freeze assets of actors supporting North Korea's textile, fishing, I.T. and manufacturing industries. We call on all countries around the world to join us by cutting off all trade and financial ties with North Korea, in order to achieve a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

As President Trump stated in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, it is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior. We will continue to work with our allies and partners to stop North Korea from using the global financial system to further Kim's reckless behavior.

Thank you. And I would be happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Can you explain how this will affect (OFF-MIKE)

MNUCHIN: Well, let me comment.

I had a very productive conversation very early this morning with Governor Zhou at the PBOC, the People's Bank of China, and how we are going to work together. This action is directed at everyone. It is in no way specifically directed at China. And we look forward to working very closely with them.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can I just read a quick section (INAUDIBLE) I want to understand what...


QUESTION: "No aircraft in which a foreign person has an interest that has landed at a place in North Korea may land at a place in the United States within 180 days after departure North Korea," and then the similar application to vessels.

Is there any way you could put a number on how many ships or aircraft would have been affected by this in pick a year, the last applicable years, so we can get a sense of the scale of the E.O., its impact?

MNUCHIN: Again, that's another important aspect of the E.O., besides for us being able to block financial transactions. We will be working very closely with the Coast Guard and others on this.

I'm not prepared to give you a number, but it's very significant. And, further, we can put actions against ports as well.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) First one, why will this round of sanctions work when others have failed?

MNUCHIN: Again, let me be clear. First of all, I don't think other sanctions have failed. But these sanctions are very significant, because not only does it allow us to sanction individuals or entities, but it allows us to freeze or block any transactions with any financial institution anywhere in the world that facilitates any transactions with the blocked person.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do these sanctions include a plan to target North Korean companies and individuals around the world?

MNUCHIN: Yes, it does.

QUESTION: OK. Any plans for future sanctions?

MNUCHIN: Again, I will never comment on future sanctions, but we will continue to review all options.

QUESTION: Does this represent in any way a rejection or a moving past U.N. Security Council...

MNUCHIN: No, I don't think in any way. We very much appreciate the U.N. Security Council resolution and the unanimous support to that. This goes beyond it.

QUESTION: What does this do that you couldn't get done through the Security Council?

MNUCHIN: Again, as I have mentioned, this allows us to block any financial institution that doesn't follow through on the U.N. sanctions or additional sanctions.

Yes, over here.


MNUCHIN: Again, we will do designations on a rolling basis. They obviously start with all activity today, so this is forward-looking. This is not backwards-looking.

QUESTION: Secondly, can you say more about your discussions with the Central Bank of China? (OFF-MIKE)

MNUCHIN: Again, those conversations are confidential, but, as I said, I had a very productive conversation with them this morning.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Piggybacking on that, is there anything -- the timeline of it, had there been previous negotiations leading to this point with the bank in China?

MNUCHIN: No, there were no previous negotiations. First time we discussed it was early this morning our time.


MNUCHIN: I called them to alert them of this in advance, given their close cooperation with us.

QUESTION: Thank you. Margaret Talev with Bloomberg.

So I wanted to ask part of the same question, which is that China had given some indication a week-and-a-half ago or so of some action. What they did today is completely separate from what they had indicated earlier.

MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not going to make comments about what they did earlier, but what they did today, I assume, is relative to our conversation.

QUESTION: Can I ask my other...

MNUCHIN: Well, why don't we come back to you, just so we can get other people in here?


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) from "The Wall Street Journal."

Can you -- do you believe that China's actions today reduce the need for further secondary sanctions on Chinese entities?

MNUCHIN: Again, I just comment, we look forward to working with them in a very cooperative way, the way we look forward to working with all of our partners. And, again, what's important about this is the additional authorities that Treasury has.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Peter Baker from "New York Times."

Can you put this in the context of the president's speech earlier in the week, when he talked about more military action? I mean, how do these things work together? And what do you expect North Korea to do in response?

MNUCHIN: I'm not going to comment on what I expect North Korea to do. Obviously, as what we have said is the objective is for them to stop their missile tests and give up their nuclear weapons.

As it relates to this is something that has been in the works for a while. I alluded to this I believe it was about two weeks ago that I had been discussing this with the president, and this was all part of the president's strategy at the U.N. this week.

QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson said it took a while for the last round of sanctions to actually have an impact or for North Korea to begin to feel them. Is there a timeline that you're looking at in which case...

MNUCHIN: Again, there's no timeline we're looking at. This is forward action on this. Again, I would just emphasize that we hope that there is voluntary cooperation, but to the extent that we have to cut off banks from the banking system in the United States, which obviously would be very significant, we now have those tools to do that.

QUESTION: Do you call any other country's central bank?

MNUCHIN: I'm not going to make confidential discussions I have had with other countries. Again, I am confirming that I did speak to them this morning. I'm not going to comment on other confidential discussions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) The president earlier thanked Xi Jinping for his bold actions, but would you say that these actions today were enough? And also would you call on Russia to (OFF-MIKE)

MNUCHIN: Again, we will call on Russia to do more. President Trump and President Xi have had very productive conversations, and we appreciate the way they're working with us.

I'm going to take one more.

QUESTION: I would like to follow up on my initial question. You said that this was not targeted at China specifically, but China is the largest trading partner with North Korea. So can you spell out how this will affect them and how it will affect the U.S. relationship with China with regards to North Korea?

MNUCHIN: Again, as I emphasized earlier, this is targeted at North Korea and anybody that wants to do trade or business with them. And we appreciate the relationship with China and we look forward to working with them. Thank you, everybody.

BROWN: And that was Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin speaking about new sanctions imposed on North Korea.

I want to bring in Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea and now Heritage Foundation senior fellow for Northeast Asia.

So, Bruce, first off, what is your reaction to what we just heard from Steve Mnuchin? And what is the significance of these new sanctions?

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: As the secretary of Treasury said, they do seem to be very significant. The text was just released, so we're digesting the details of it. But I think what seems most striking is that previous executive orders and previous legislation seem directed at targets that were -- where there was evidence of some wrongdoing.

This executive order...

BROWN: If you would just stand by, Bruce, we see the president meeting with Erdogan, Turkey's president. Let's listen in.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a great honor and privilege, because he's become a friend of mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey.

He's running a very, very difficult part of the world. He's involved very, very strongly. And, thankfully, he's getting very high marks. And he's also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship. As countries, I think we're right now as close as we have ever been.

And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship.

So, President, thank you very much. It's a great honor to have you (OFF-MIKE) the United States.

BROWN: OK. We're listening to Turkey's President Erdogan meeting with President Trump at the U.N. General Assembly there in New York.


And as soon as it goes back to President Trump, we will listen back in to that conversation happening right now.

All right. Let's go back in.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT: ... be assessing the current relations between the United States and Turkey, as well as we will have the opportunity to discuss the recent regional developments as well.

And I would like to once again thank you for this opportunity. And it's great to get together with you.

TRUMP: Very well. Thank you very much, Mr. President. We appreciate it.

Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.


TRUMP: Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

BROWN: All right. There you go. There was President Trump meeting with Turkey's President Erdogan. Tough to hear what was happening there at the end, but a lot is going on.

As that meeting was happening, you had Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, announcing new sanctions imposed against North Korea.

I want to go back to Bruce Klingner.

We were just having a conversation, Bruce, about the significance of these new sanctions. What can you tell us?

KLINGNER: Well, they do seem to be significant.

As we're digesting the newly released text and seeing the details of it, what I think is striking is that the previous executive orders and legislation focused on targets that -- where there was evidence of wrongdoing.

This seems to be simply looking at targets that are conducting trade with North Korea. So, during the past year or so, there's been a third track, in addition to the U.N. sanctions, U.S. sanctions, a third track where the U.S. and South Korea are particularly trying to influence North Korea's business partners away from engaging with Pyongyang, even if they weren't seen as engaging in anything illicit.

So I think this executive order sort of codifies that effort of the past year or so.

BROWN: And, of course, the big question is China. What does this do to our relationship with China? What is China's role in these new sanctions? He sort of hinted at that a little bit in his press conference.

KLINGNER: Well, many of us have been recommending the U.S. more fully enforce its laws against entities, North Korean, Chinese and others, that are misusing the U.S. financial system, violating U.S. laws.

So I think the secondary sanction train was gathering speed. And my sense would be that Beijing's announcement today that all of their banks would stop dealing with North Korea was really a way of trying to avoid the U.S. imposing sanctions or imposing fines on Chinese banks.

BROWN: But that's a big step, am I right, the fact that China's on board with that?

KLINGNER: It's a very big step, but I think we should be cynical and skeptical, because we have seen many times in the past decade where North Korea -- or -- I'm sorry -- China has made very strong statements, pledging to enforce laws, enforce resolutions, and then we saw that the implementation and the enforcement was fairly timid and sporadic. So...

BROWN: Yes. First thing that comes to mind on that is the economic espionage that they said they would stop. And from what I'm told, that has not stopped.

But back to North Korea. You heard Steve Mnuchin there say, when he was asked about why will this work, when the past sanctions have failed, and he said, let me correct you on that, the past sanctions haven't failed.

Is that right?

KLINGNER: I think that's right.

If we're using the metric of has North Korea cut off its last nuclear weapon, well, obviously, nothing has worked, including 25 years of attempts at diplomacy and engagement and negotiations. But sanctions and targeted financial measures serve a number of other purposes. They're defending U.S. law. They're imposing a penalty or a pain on those that violate our laws.

They put in place measures to make it harder for North Korea to import the things they need for their prohibited programs, including money from illicit activities. It puts in place measures to make it harder for North Korea to proliferate. And then in conjunction with all the other instruments of national power, we're trying to get North Korea to come back into compliance with its pledges during eight previous agreements to either never build or to abandon nuclear weapons, as well as to come into compliance with the nine or 10 U.N. resolutions.

BROWN: All right. Bruce, thank you very much.

KLINGNER: Thank you.

And we're also keeping our eyes on Mexico, as search teams race to save survivors still trapped in the rubble.

Also, a dire situation unfolding right now as we speak in Puerto Rico, now getting pounded by heavy rains after Hurricane Maria devastated that region.

CNN is on the ground. We will have a live report in just a moment.



BROWN: And now to Puerto Rico, where the devastation following Hurricane Maria has paralyzed the U.S. territory.

Take a look at these visuals we have. The island has soaked up 30 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. And the entire island is now under a flash flood warning. There's still no power, and officials say four to six months may pass before residents gain -- regain, I should say, electricity.

But just look at the aftermath here. The governor said it was -- quote -- "the most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history."

Maria is now a Category 3 hurricane with an eye that spans 30 miles. And it's now headed toward the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. Forecasters say rainfall totals could mirror Hurricane Harvey.

Well, today, President Trump, who plans to visit Puerto Rico, says help is on the way.


TRUMP: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated. Their electrical grid is totally destroyed and so many other things. So we're starting the process now.


And we will work with the governor and the people of Puerto Rico.


BROWN: Well, Nick Paton Walsh, CNN senior international correspondent, is in San Juan with a look at the devastation there.

And how are the residents there coping, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Coming back to life here, I mean, yes, this is a city that's had a huge blow to it.

You can see the immediate debris, just the vegetation behind me, absolutely obliterated. Well, not quite. But enormous amount of damage and devastation brought to it.

Bear in mind, you know, we look at the things here that have been cleaned up on the surface slowly, the traffic's slowly coming back to life around me, the broader question are the months ahead. And that key fact of maybe four to six months without power is going to later lives for everybody here on a daily basis.

Remember, two days ago, they woke up to a normal life in 2017 in an American territory. Today, everything, frankly, changed. You know, the 155-mile-an-hour winds have torn electric cables down, thrown trees in the middle of highways, caused flash flooding that means we drove for a mile down a highway that felt like a river, and taken cell phone signals out.

And that's a key thing for people, too, because they have a very scant amount of information, frankly, coming up to us, asking, when's the airport going to be open? Well, that's tomorrow. How high were the winds? -- 155 miles an hour, but also not knowing really what has happened to their loved ones to some degree.

And that's a very hard thing to have to get news for, for making your own drive around the place where there are traffic jams and often half of the lanes on the road are actually blocked, so definitely a country here reeling from this now, trying to get about life, but realizing that the days and months ahead are going to be absolutely different to anything they knew merely 40 hours ago -- Pam.

BROWN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for bringing us the latest there in Puerto Rico.


BROWN: And more on our breaking news this hour.

In Mexico City, crews hopefully getting closer to a trapped 12-year- old little girl and any other survivors still buried beneath the quake's rubble.

We will take you there live.