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Twenty Six Dead, 20 Wounded in Texas Church Shooting; Trump in Asia; Trump and Abe Hold News Conference. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:17] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.
We are following several breaking stories this hour.
President Donald Trump is on the longest trip to Asia by a U.S. President in more than 25 years. He will be holding a news conference this hour with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And of course, we will bring that to you live.
But first, horror and disbelief in Texas after a shooter killed at least 26 worshipers during a Sunday church service outside of San Antonio, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor among the dead.
The suspect is 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was found dead of a gunshot wound in his car after a brief chase. Now he was discharged from the U.S. Air force for bad conduct over charges of assaulting his spouse and their child.
This shooting happened in a small tight knit community of only a few hundred people. This is how some residents faced the terrible news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And be with us here as we learn to deal with this in the days to come. I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
We're also getting a glimpse of what the inside of the church looks like. This video was taken a week ago. It's another service, not the one in question. We don't know if any of the people you see here either were in the building at the time of the shooting.
Here is the Texas governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: As a state, we are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state's history. There are so many families who have lost family members -- fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. The tragedy, of course, is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: We're also learning more about how this tragedy unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At approximately 11:20 this morning, a suspect was seen in a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was dressed in all black. That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle, and began firing at the church.
The suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire. As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle and fled from the church.
Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time. A short time later, as law enforcement responded, that suspect right at the Wilson- Guadalupe County line, he ran off the roadway and crashed out and was found deceased in his vehicle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And our Ed Lavandera joins us now from Sutherland Springs. Ed -- we're learning more about what happened but virtually nothing about the why so far. What have you been hearing?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that motivation is what drew him to this church. It's still very much up in question. A couple of interesting things to point out -- Kelley lives in the town of New Braunfels which is about 40 miles away from this town here in Sutherland Springs. New Braunfels is just north of San Antonio.
So why he would drive 40 miles and pick out this church is obviously something investigators are taking a much closer and deeper look into. And obviously whether or not he should have been able to legally purchase a gun is something that is in question as well tonight. As you mentioned, he was able to purchase his assault-style rifle legally back in April of 2016.
And so the question kind of becomes, he was released from the military on a bad conduct discharge, which is different from a dishonorable discharge. And he was accused, court martialed and convicted of abusing his spouse and his child. So questions as to whether or not the conviction on those charges should have been able to disqualify him.
But from according to sources that CNN has spoken with tonight there was nothing that popped up in the background check that would have disqualified him from being able to get that weapon apparently. So we'll continue to look closer into that -- Michael.
And that's one of the things that investigators also taking a much closer look as they try to piece together what exactly the motivation was in this attack.
HOLMES: So Ed -- just to expound on that a little bit more, he did do a background check -- nothing popped up.
[00:05:00] And for viewers who might be watching, is this because a domestic violence charge should have precluded him from owning a weapon under normal circumstances and that didn't show up because it was a military procedure rather in the civilian courts? Is that the thinking?
LAVANDERA: It's hard to fully kind of say this at this point. It's one of the things that we'll continue looking into, especially into tomorrow as well as to whether exactly if it was because he was discharged for a bad conduct that perhaps that might not have raised the flags and the warnings on that. Or, you know, because a bad conduct discharge from the military is different from a dishonorable discharge.
So whether or not that played into it, we just can't say at this point. We'll continue to ask questions about that. And obviously, the questions about, you know, if you are convicted of this assault charge, how did that not pop up in the background check that would have been done theoretically when he purchased the weapon back in April of 2016?
HOLMES: Yes, still a lot of questions. Ed Lavandera there on the ground for us in Texas. Thanks so much -- Ed.
In Japan, President Trump sticking to his busy schedule on the first leg of a whirlwind tour of Asia. Still he says his thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Texas church shooting. He called the attack an act of evil in a place of sacred worship, but said Americans will do what they do best in times of tragedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We join hands. We lock arms. And through the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong, oh so strong.
My administration will provide its full support to the great state of Texas and all local authorities investigating this horrible crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: We are waiting for the President and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to address the media any time now. Our Jim Acosta is in the room where that news conference will be held. And he is with us on the line.
Jim -- Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump profess to have a very close relationship. But they have a lot of differences on issues like trade and also on defense matters. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): They really do,
Michael. But, you know, this trip has already served as a reminder as to what happens when presidents go overseas and try to conduct a foreign trip that is supposed to be on script, supposed to be on message, supposed to be on issues like trade and national security on the agenda.
And yet with this terrible tragedy in Texas, the President is having to deal with this, really his first full day on the ground in Japan. He offered his condolences to the people in Texas earlier today, as you saw in the remarks to U.S. and Japanese business leaders.
We do expect the President will likely do that again at the beginning of this news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Akasaka Palace.
But you're right -- Michael. If the President is asked about Texas, he'll obviously comment on that. But at the same time he is very likely to be asked about these questions that are pertinent to the trip, pertinent to the agenda that he and his advisers laid out for this journey across Asia.
First and foremost, the situation in North Korea -- obviously this president has decided to go in a different direction than Barack Obama when it comes to really ratcheting up the rhetoric with North Korea, referring to Kim Jong-Un as rocket man and threatening to totally destroy North Korea talking about fire and fury over the summer.
That is the kind of rhetoric that is unsettling in this part of the world. And I suspect one of the questions to the Japanese prime minister might be well, what do you think about all of that. That may be something that comes up.
And then obviously it was quite startling to hear the American president earlier today really criticize his Japanese hosts on this issue of trade, describing the U.S.-Japanese trade relationship as unfair. That is not typically what you hear from an American president, really sort of going there, as it were on disagreements of that nature.
The President made it very clear he has no regrets when it comes to pulling out of the Trans-Pacific trade deal as he did in the very beginning of his administration.
He is of the belief that these were unilateral trade deals like the ones he is talking about in this region are the way to go. And so I suspect that that will be another potential point of disagreement as well with the Japanese prime minister.
[00:09:57] But I mean honestly, Michael, this is something that we don't normally see with the President on the world stage. And that is this president, at least says that he has an extremely warm relationship with Shinzo Abe. And that has been on display throughout this trip so far. And so, you know, perhaps some of their disagreements may be toned down during the course of this news conference. But as you know, when Donald Trump or President Trump steps up to the microphones, just about anything can happen. And that's what we're going to be looking for here in just a few moments -- Michael.
HOLMES: And often does.
Jim Acosta -- you'll be there for us. And we'll check back in with you a little bit later. We will bring viewers that news conference when it happens.
All right. Let's talk a little bit more about Sunday's attack in Texas. Let's go to CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore -- a great deal of experience with domestic terrorism and mass shootings from his time as a special agent with the FBI. He joins me now via Skype from Los Angeles.
Steve -- we're sort of slowly getting a bit more information about this alleged shooter and his background. A bad conduct discharge from the military -- what do you make of that and the fact that he apparently by all accounts passed a background check?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: It's mind-boggling. It's unacceptable.
When you have a conviction, whether it's in the uniform code of criminal justice court, whether it's a court-martial or whatever, you have a conviction for spousal abuse and child abuse essentially in this, and you are not reported so that to federal authorities, I mean, you're all on the same side. And this person is then allowed to go get an assault rifle because you haven't reported this. It's mind- boggling.
HOLMES: How does it work -- Steve? I mean educators -- I meant if it was in the civilian courts, would it have shown up more readily than something like this had gone through the military code of justice? Would it have been perhaps not show up? And why wouldn't it?
MOORE: Well, it should show up. There are standard procedures for taking every court procedure and sending them to Washington. Washington is the one who keeps the information on this and the National Criminal Information Center, the NCIC -- or Crime Information Center. And that is the repository for all this information. That is what ATF checks, the NCIC.
And if you have one entity that has decided they are not going to cooperate in this, what they are doing is putting everybody at risk because anybody who they've dealt with has now got a free ticket.
HOLMES: Tell me, as an investigator, a man who sort of looked into, you know, all sorts of terror and other cases over the years, what is it the people missed with this guy because it always seems to be something after the event.
MOORE: Michael -- I think, you know, it's hard to tell, you know, in advance whether somebody missed anything. But from what I've been finding out from people in New Braunfels where Kelley is from, this guy had indications all the way back into middle school that there was something going on with him emotionally.
And then you get him into the military, and he beats his wife and child, goes to prison essentially for a year, and then comes out, and then he is on Facebook bragging about the assault. As late as last week, I understand, bragging about assault rifles that he has gotten.
Here is the thing. Somebody has to be able to put those pieces together. You have somebody who has been in prison for assault. He shouldn't be allowed to buy a weapon. And then he is bragging about it publicly. And we don't see anything. I think we've got to close these loop holes.
HOLMES: And just before I let you go, you were down in this part of the country in the last couple of days. Give people a sense of, you know, what this area is like. This is small-town America where people still leave their doors unlocked.
MOORE: Oh, yes. I have family there. I ate dinner last night in New Braunfels, Texas where Devin Kelley is from. This is a place where, as you say, people don't necessarily lock their doors at night.
It is the most polite, genteel place. They are the kind of people who will not walk by without nodding or waving. It is, you know, it's pickup trucks. It's salt of the earth people. And I frankly enjoy the people there immensely.
I think they are astounded here.
And not surprisingly, this is a place where most people have guns. You're not surprised that a person across the street was able to run over and engage this person.
Ninety-nine percent of the people with the guns there have no problems. They give nobody else any problems.
[00:15:05] But when you have somebody who is mentally ill and they get ahold of this, we have to look at ourselves as a society and find out what else is going on.
HOLMES: Yes. And then how it can happen.
Steve -- thank so much. Thank you. We'll talk with you a little later in the program.
And we are standing by, I said earlier, for that joint news conference from President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. We will bring to it you live as soon as it happens. Our own Jim Acosta is sitting in that room right now.
We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Welcome back.
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President Donald Trump due to speak to reporters at the Akasaka Palace, that is the state guest house in Tokyo. You see the room there. It's all set up, ready to go.
We are waiting to bring that to you live as soon as it happens, due to start in well,10 or 15 minutes from now, if they're on time.
One topic that will likely come up, of course, is the U.S. trade relationship with Japan. President Trump telling U.S. and Japanese business leaders on Monday that it is not fair and not open. And he wants to renegotiate the whole thing. This, of course after pulling the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific partnership deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump wrapping up a two-day visit to Japan, his first stop on his nearly two-week-long tour crisscrossing Asia.
President Trump and Prime Minister Abe have spent most of Trump's visit at informal engagements in and around Tokyo. The President and Prime Minister feeding fish right here. This is at a koi pond on their way to lunch on Monday, giving the fish some lunch first.
Meanwhile, the first lady Melania Trump joining Aki Abe for a visit to an elementary school, as you see there. The students singing a welcome song for the two first ladies.
[00:19:51] All right.
In Texas, a tight-knit community mourning after a shooter killed at least 26 people during a Sunday morning church service. There was a vigil held after sunset the same day. Residents of the victims and well-wishers from neighboring towns all gathering in candlelight to say prayers like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us build your kingdom as something constructive in the face of destruction. And let us not be people of anger. Let us not be people of fear. Let us not be people who seek security or seek vengeance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And CNN's Gustavo Valdes was there for that vigil. You've been in the town for a while. I know you've been speaking to a lot of the locals -- very stunned, very emotional getting to know those people. Fill us in -- Gustavo.
GUSTAVO VALDES, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
It was very somber. And I can tell you that you could feel the pain that these people are suffering. It didn't take them long to gather in unity to remember those who lost their lives. Those who are still struggle to save the lives in the local hospitals and trying to make sense of what happened a few feet from where I'm standing tonight.
I spoke with a couple who -- (AUDIO GAP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA RODRIGUEZ XIMENEZ, KNEW VICTIMS OF SHOOTING: He is a loving pastor, man of god. We knew his girls. The one that didn't survive, I've known her since she was about eight years old. And there's no words to describe how wonderful people they are -- Christian.
This is a small Christian town, a very small community. Everybody is united. Everybody is so close to everybody. Everybody knows everybody.
VALDES: Did you ever think that a community like yours would go through something like this?
Never in a million years would I ever imagine this happening, never, never. I can feel the pain that everybody is going through. So much hurt for a small town, for a small community, so united.
Never in a million years would I expect anything like this. I could never imagine anything like this ever happening here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALDES: And, well, everybody left home, as you can hear. Everybody or a lot of people were in church themselves, very emotional. But they hope that through prayer they can start healing this community, even though they know it's not going to be a quick recovery -- Michael.
HOLMES: Yes. Just painful to listen to that. Gustavo Valdes -- thanks so much.
Well, Sutherland Springs, Texas as we've been telling you, it's a small community. One local business owner says it has only two gas stations, a community center, a post office, a discount store, a tire shop and that historic church that was attacked on Sunday.
The last population count was in 2000, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Back then only 362 people called it home. A town so tight-knit nobody figured it would be the site of such horrific violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE MATULA, SUTHERLAND SPRINGS RESIDENT (via telephone): We were flabbergasted. There is just no reason for something like that to take place especially here where everybody is family. You know, we all help each other out. We all know each other.
This is just devastating. We moved out here and realized that we were in probably the best place in Texas because everybody knows everybody. You know, we help each other out. You need something, all you have to do is call and you'll have three or four people at your door ready to help. And you know, to have something like this happen is just -- it's unconscionable.
MIKE CLEMENS, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN FLORESVILLE TEXAS: Sutherland Springs, it's a little town. We've got about five, you know, little towns in our county. And it's a neat little place. It's a pretty little place.
The church is a church that really loves people. They're not a wealthy church. It's a smaller church. But they've always been willing, as far as I've known to share with whatever they have.
KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is horrific. And I was just recalling that we've been through this before. We had the Fort Hood shooting. So this is something we are unfortunately all too familiar with.
VICENTE GONZALEZ, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: It's certainly a tragedy that no one could have ever imagined that would occur in a community such as this. It's known for being a very peaceful place. Good country folks live there. And I'm shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HERRIDGE: We are standing by as we've been telling you for that joint news conference from President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. We will bring to it you live as soon as it happens.
We'll be right back.
[00:24:52] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOLMES: The U.S. President Donald Trump pushing for better trade relations with Japan. And so on the first stop of his five-nation Asian tour, Mr. Trump attended a working lunch with the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders scheduled to hold a joint news conference this hour.
Jim Acosta, monitoring that, joins us now from Tokyo on the line. It's due to start any minute.
What are we likely to hear from the two leaders? It's not going to be a free-ranging news conference, is it?
ACOSTA: That's right, Michael. This is one of those we call them two plus twos. There will be two questions for the American press, two questions for the Japanese press.
We fully expect the President to make some kind of reference to the mass shooting in Texas that is obviously really overshadowed this day here in Tokyo for the President. He has already commented on it once earlier today, described that mass shooting in Texas as an act of evil. He has received offers of condolences from the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
So we do expect them to touch upon that at the beginning of this news conference. And then they'll get down to business. We've already heard the President say earlier today -- as a matter of fact this just happened just a short while ago.
In one of these press opportunities with the two leaders, the President said that they had already talked about North Korea.
[00:30:02] So we do think that this question of just what is the President going to do, how is this region going to deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and this escalating nuclear problem in the Korean Peninsula, just how are these leaders going to confront that?
That obviously is going to come up. And as we've noticed, Michael, past is prologue, the president engaged in some pretty bellicose rhetoric in talking about that situation. Obviously, the administration feels that that is a policy that, in some way, shape or form in the future, will pay dividends.
But it is certainly an approach that makes people nervous in this part of the world, when they hear the U.S. president refer to Kim Jong-un as "rocket man," threaten to totally destroy North Korea, talking about fire and fury, as he did over the summer.
That is not the kind of rhetoric that Shinzo Abe engages in. So one of the potential questions for this news conference is how he has been dealing with all of that. And, you know, the other issue is going to be trade obviously. These two leaders do not agree on the issue of trade in every sense.
I think there are probably some avenues where they are in agreement. But the American president, in a moment that was not exactly in keeping with what you normally see in these kinds of settings, President Trump said he does not believe that this U.S.-Japanese trade relationship is fair.
You don't typically see a U.S. president speak that directly on the issue. But Shinzo Abe heard that. And so I suppose that they'll get a chance to -- if they have a chance, if the question is asked, to air their disagreements on the trade issue as well.
One issue that's been pushed to the sidelines, Michael, to some extent, is the Russia investigation. As we know, that is unfolding back in Washington. But it did, to some extent, dominate the Sunday talk shows.
So there is the potential there that the president could be asked about that. But as I was saying at the top of this, Michael, when you have two questions for the U.S. press, two questions for the Japanese press, it does limit the possibilities. And there is some very big breaking news of the day to tackle. And that is that heartbreaking situation down in Texas -- Michael.
HOLMES(voice-over): Exactly. Jim, thank you so much.
Jim Acosta in that room there, waiting for that news conference.
We'll check in with you a little bit later.
And we'll bring viewers that news conference once it gets under way. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe, they're in general agreement
on taking a tough line against North Korea. Their language on the issue markedly different, as Jim Acosta was just saying there. It's outwardly a friendly relationship. You saw that on display during a game of golf on Sunday.
But when it comes to things like North Korea, when it comes to whether the U.S. is a reliable ally on defense matters and certainly when it comes to trade, they differ. Alexandra Field joins us now from Tokyo with more with regional expectations on this tour.
Alexandra, he is going to South Korea as well. And you spent a lot of time in South Korea. Differences there on trade. Differences there on South Korea. The U.S. doesn't really even have a diplomatic -- they don't have an ambassador yet.
There is a lot of -- I think he referred to President Moon as "an appeaser" for wanting to talk to North Korea.
How is President Trump seen in the region in which you live and report?
Are allies there nervous?
FIELD: Certainly, we have seen nervousness from the allies, as you have seen this campaign from North Korea ratcheting up, accelerating so quickly in terms of the development to their missile and nuclear program.
And then they had a new president in the United States come to office some 10 months ago, who is taking a very different approach to North Korea. His administration promised from the beginning that they were going to put an end to the era of strategic patience, that they would have a new policy toward North Korea.
What we have seen in the intervening months are the allies in the region trying to understand what the strategy is and how they play a part in that strategy. From the beginning, you had a president who got on the campaign trail and made the allies nervous when he questioned the amount of spending that the U.S. does on its defense in this region.
After taking office, he started to show the allies that he really was committed to this alliance, was projecting that message, was sending his top level administration officials to the region to reassure the allies that they would work together when it came to countering North Korea.
But we can't point out the fact enough that, if he has a very close ally in the region, it is the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
HOLMES: -- in Tokyo. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- daughters, wives, brothers, uncles, fathers, it's a very, very sad number of stories that we've heard. And they were abducted in all cases by North Korea. And we will work --
TRUMP: -- with Prime Minister Abe on trying to get them back to their loved ones. In some cases many years ago they were taken. They were used to learn the language. They were used for many different reasons. But it's a tremendous disgrace.
And I've just met some really wonderful people who have gone through a lot. So I'll work with Prime Minister Abe. We'll work together very closely and see if we can bring them back to Japan, where they want to be. Thank you very much.
HOLMES: U.S. president Donald Trump there speaking.
Now we're waiting for this news conference to get under way. What this was about was there was a meeting of families -- Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump meeting with the families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea.
This was a bizarre series of kidnappings that happened in the '70s. Sort of ordinary Japanese people disappearing and popping up in North Korea, where they were then used for a variety of reasons, allegedly including teaching Japanese to North Korean agents and so on.
Alex Field, sorry to interrupt you a little bit earlier, as we listened to those comments from the U.S. president. Continue on with your thought about how, as the U.S. goes to this "America First" policy of Donald Trump, how people in the Asia-Pacific region specifically, do they feel that America First means they're lower down the totem pole now and will they look elsewhere, China, for example, on things like trade?
FIELD: Look, I think people understand that it takes some time to understand a new administration's policy. It takes some time for a new administration, frankly, to articulate that policy and that strategy.
And the Trump administration has come under some fire in the region by those who have said that the language that is coming from Washington is, quite frankly, confusing, because you a president who speaks very much with his own voice, very oftentimes on Twitter. He has the tendency to go there and speak in very fiery and fierce terms. And that sometimes seems to be at odds with the kinds of messages that the allies in this region are getting from high level administration officials, like the secretary of state, who has come out here and talked opening up avenues of dialogue with Pyongyang, only to be publicly undercut by a president, who will go about tweeting something like save your energy, Secretary Tillerson, suggesting that these diplomatic avenues perhaps won't work.
Under all of this sort of back-and-forth that you've seen, you have a White House that continues to say or officials in the White House that continue to say that the administration's priority is to achieve total denuclearization of the peninsula and to do that through diplomatic and economic pressure, even though the president continues to remind the public and the allies here that there is always a military option that could be available for use against North Korea.
That is the language precisely, though, that does raise the kind of alarm that you're alluding to, Michael, right here in the region. And that certainly happens in South Korea because of the proximity and because of the fact that we know that North Korea has a range of conventional weapons, that are sitting along that highly fortified border, where they could unleash their own kind of fury on the people of South Korea.
There would be devastating losses if North Korea acted in that way.
So how do you move forward?
What needs to come from this trip?
Well, the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, Michael, will no doubt closely be watching what has happened here in Tokyo over the last few days. The president comes here with a very close relationship to Prime Minister Abe. He doesn't have that certain kind of closeness with President Moon Jae-in.
But certainly the president in South Korea will want the look at this trip to try and understand how President Trump is managing the two priorities of this trip: one, security; the other being trade.
Do these two things stand at odds?
How do they work together on both of these issues?
Are there conflicts that are going to arise when they may be on the same page on one issue and on different pages on the other issue? -- Michael.
HOLMES: All right, Alexandra Field in Tokyo, thank you so much. You spend your life in that region covering these sorts of aspects of it. We'll check in with you later.
Meanwhile, let's have a conversation now with CNN contributor, Jean Lee, who joins us from Seoul in South Korea. We also have in Los Angeles political analyst, Michael Genovese, and U.S. Army Major General Mark MacCarley.
Jean, let's start with you and pick up on what Alexandra was talking about there and that is the sort of feeling that, on trade in particular, the United States with the America First agenda is making people in South Korea, in Japan and elsewhere in the region, feel that they're not first when it comes to trade.
JEAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: South Koreans have had some criticism of Trump throughout his campaign, when he was campaigning for president, because he was very clear that he wanted the South Koreans to pay more for the cost of the U.S. troops here --
LEE: -- as well as to renegotiate this U.S.-South Korean FTA. And that certainly is not making South Koreans happy.
And there is also concern that that is showing or highlighting a possible rift between the South Koreans and the Americans. And that is not what they want right now.
So the South Koreans will certainly be trying to tone down some of those discussions, to try to show strength in the alliance and to show that they're all on the same page, rather than that there are differences between them.
HOLMES: Michael Genovese, what about you, when it comes to particularly when we're talking about North Korea, the rhetoric of Donald Trump, how does that harm the policies regionally, where you've got President Moon, for example, in South Korea, who is in favor of talks?
And then President Trump basically calling him an appeaser for that, where does the rhetoric fit in with the realities on the ground for those allies in the region?
MICHAEL GENOVESE, LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you have to remember that, to an extent, Donald Trump is still an unknown quantity to the people in the region. He has not had a long public career.
And so the rhetoric that they've heard, which is a bit incendiary, can be a bit alarming. So I think part of it is that Donald Trump has to do some relationship building, some trust building. And he has to show them that he can play well with others and that some of his blistering rhetoric may be a bargaining ploy and that the administration, which is speaking in many voices, can speak with one voice.
And maybe we can get some of the other allies and the countries in the region to be on the same page.
HOLMES: Mark, let's bring you in on this too.
In the military sense, how nervous are the allies?
We've talked a lot about South Korea and them being nervous about the talk of fire and fury being unleashed on North Korea by the president.
When it comes to feeling that the U.S. has their back, is there a little unsettled nature, when it comes to South Korea -- and Japan as well, which has had North Korean missiles flying overhead?
MAJ. GEN. MARK MACCARLEY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, Michael, as you know, both South Korea and Japan have and our closest -- two of our closest allies. And we've had a long-standing relationship with both countries.
And both countries are within that area of real threat. South Korea, Seoul is within under 40 miles of the DMZ from Seoul. And if, through some sort of scenario, a military response was to be taken by the United States, the first casualties will be the millions of Koreans in Seoul, as well as the expats and others who live in that area.
And then immediately after that, there is an expectation that the Japanese themselves will be a potential victim and the subject of aggression by North Korea.
So when you look at the totality of the circumstances, it is South Korea and Japan, at this particular point in time, that have the most to lose.
Now if North Korea succeeds in this outrageous effort to achieve an intercontinental ballistic missile that allows and threatens Los Angeles and other parts of the United States mainland, then we ourselves are brought into that orbit.
But as you suggested, is there a tremendous amount of concern?
Absolutely, yes. And I think when you hear President Moon, who came out in the last couple of days and, again, reiterated his interest in some sort of diplomatic resolution of this, that is purely an expression of his concern for the safety and security of his own people rather than to emphasize at the outset the military option as the only option.
HOLMES: Yes, indeed.
Jean Lee, Michael Genovese, Mark MacCarley, do stay with us. We're going to take a short break, waiting on that news conference to begin. They're running late. But that's pretty much par for course for these sorts of things. We'll talk more after the break.
HOLMES: All right. Live pictures coming to us there from Tokyo. We are waiting for the U.S. president, Donald Trump. He is on the first stop of his five-nation tour of Asia. He is in Japan. We're expecting this news conference with him and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to begin at any minute.
They're about 20 minutes after the scheduled time. But that's par for the course often with these news conferences. When it gets underway, we will bring to it you live.
Meanwhile, let's continue our conversation with Jean Lee in Seoul; in Los Angeles, political analyst Michael Genovese and Army Major General Mark MacCarley.
I thought, Michael, we could talk a little bit about this. The U.S. traditionally, for years and years and years, multiple administrations, has sort of been seen in the region as a counterbalance, a democratic counterbalance, if you like, to Chinese influence in the region.
Under the America First policy, the disengagement we've seen on the global stage, do you think that allies in the region still see the U.S. as a reliable partner in a leadership role strategically?
GENOVESE: Well, certainly they would like to. But some of the rhetoric coming out of the administration about America first, about we're not going to be the policeman of the world kind of rhetoric, is a bit alarming, because China is ready to step into that position.
In Davos in January, President Xi announced to the world that he is prepared to enforce all of the international rules and regulations that the United States used to engage in but now are pulling away.
And so to the extent that President Trump can reassure our allies that, no, we're not going to pull back; no, we're not going to be leaving the global leadership stage, that would be very important for President Trump and for the United States because China is still in TPP.
We pulled out. China is in the Paris climate accords. We pulled out. So there is a very real and a very genuine concern, based on evidence, that the United States may be --
GENOVESE: -- pulling back, President Trump has to reverse that image.
HOLMES: And China stepping into the breach, as you say. And also interesting, Shinzo Abe, a big fan of TPP, which the U.S. has pulled out of, that's another bone of contention.
Stay with us, panel. We're going to take another short break and we'll be right back and continue the conversation. Stay with us.
HOLMES: All right. We are waiting for this news conference to get underway. U.S. president Donald Trump and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, expected to walk through those doors at the back of the room at any moment. We have seen activity in the room that does suggest this will get underway very shortly.
In the meantime, let's continue with the panel.
Jean Lee, I wanted to ask you a question. You know, when you are looking at the broader regional geopolitical situation and the U.S. disengagement and America First and the like, you have got China with the Belton Road (ph) initiative; President Xi's thoughts are now enshrined in the Chinese constitution. There is a strategy regionally and globally when it comes to China.
What to you is the U.S. strategy in Asia under this administration, the broad strategic plan?
LEE: Well, Donald Trump is, first and foremost, a businessman, so I think he's approaching all of these relationships from a business perspective. And that's something we have to keep in mind.
I think it's very interesting, we have seen Xi's status cemented and strengthened in the past few weeks. What that means for that relationship with the U.S. --
LEE: -- is going to be interesting to see.
Will it be easier for Trump to deal with him or will that make it harder because he's feeling more emboldened?
This is largely -- this whole geopolitical game in the region is really about the U.S. and China. And North Korea and South Korea are wedge issues that manage to get their way in the middle of this. And the U.S. and China use these countries to sort of face off against one another.
But we'll see. It will be very interesting to see what happens in Beijing.
HOLMES: And Mark MacCarley, I wanted to ask you too, when we were talking before about the military side of things, the security side of things, it's interesting that Prime Minister Abe, he's a man that wants to remove the pacifist nature of the Japanese constitution, to take a more active role in his nation's defense capabilities.
If the U.S. is not seen as a -- I don't know -- reliable partner, somebody who has got their backs, is that something that would concern you, if Japan went down that road, because they didn't feel that they had the support they once had?
MACCARLEY: I think it's really been a long time coming; having spent a considerable amount of time in Asia, in Japan, the discussions about the modification of the Japanese constitution have been going on, as I said, for many, many years.
It just so happens that, with the collision of the events in North Korea, there is a pressing -- from our perspective, I mean, my perspective personally -- there's a pressing urgency on the part of Japan to look to enhancing its defense capabilities and its ability to use its military forces, what are called the self-defense forces of Japan, in ways that are supportive of some sort of overarching strategy to maintain the democracy or the freedom of movement and all those things that have typified that part of Asia, when America was a dominant force, when the fleet, American fleet was situated throughout that area. So Japanese response is certainly appropriate. But one final comment
I wanted to make is that this trip itself typifies what should have been done months ago and that is, regardless of any statements made by the administration that it was disengaging, that it was America first, this is the type of trip that is supposed to demonstrate to each of the leaders of the five countries and those who are participating in the Asian conference, that America indeed is back to the reengagement in the region because it's ultimately for the benefit of not only the region but the United States itself, that the United States must and should engage.
HOLMES: All right. Mark MacCarley, thanks so much. I'll get you to stand by. Jean Lee also and Michael Genovese, as we now see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. president, Donald Trump, about to speak. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- and President Donald Trump of the United States.
First, Mr. Abe will speak, which will be followed by President Trump.
The floor is yours, Mr. Abe.
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, at the outset, may I begin by offering my condolences to the victims who lost their lives, as well as my sympathy to the people injured in the recent shooting incidents in Texas.
I would like to express my heartfelt solidarity to the people of the United States in this time of difficulty.
It was only one year ago in November last year that I met the president for the first time in the Trump Tower, New York. Since then, I have had numerous opportunities to converse with the president on the margin of international meetings, as well as countless talks on the phone.
Indeed, how many hours of dialogue did we have?
I believe that there has never been such close bonds intimately connecting the leaders of both nations as we do now in the history of Japan-U.S. alliance of more than half a century.
In particular, he received me with great hospitality last February on my visit to the U.S. at his villa in Florida. It became my unforgettable memory that we were able to discuss a variety of global issues over so many hours, quite frankly, including several rounds of golf.
And it is my particular delight that this time I'm able to welcome my dear friend, President Trump, and Madame Melania Trump to Japan.
This first trip of President Trump to Asia is an historic visit in the current regional situation, which is ever more tense.