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South Korean Artists to Perform in North Korea; U.S. and South Korea Begin Joint Military Exercise; Deaths in Gaza Protests; Trump Accuses Amazon of Scamming USPS; Louisiana Officials Reckon with Police Shooting Death; Presidents Hit the Dance Floor. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 1, 2018 - 00:00   ET




ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. and South Korea resume military exercises amid a flurry of diplomatic acts on the Korean Peninsula.

Plus they are burying the dead in Gaza as Israel and the Palestinian Authority blame each other for Friday's violence.

And this: anger and pain in two U.S. cities over the police killings of two African American men.

Hello, everyone, I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


SESAY: We begin with war games on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. and South Korea are kicking off an annual military exercise as the world wait to see how and if North Korea responds.

The drills were delayed this year to ease tensions during the Olympics. They're also said to be shorter by about a month. Still the U.S. says they'll be similar in scope to past drills like the one seen here.

Last April, North Korea was testing missiles with abandon but now it seems to be testing diplomacy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wrapped up a surprise trip to China just a few days ago. He also met with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who says North Korea will participate in the next two Olympics.

Mr. Kim is also set to meet with South Korean president Moon Jae-in later this month and eventually U.S. president Donald Trump. But North Korea's highest profile visitors this week will not be politicians.

A group of South Korean musicians and performers has arrived in the North for a short tour. They include a K-pop girl group and a rock band. CNN's Alexandra Field has more on their musical diplomacy from Seoul. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A South Korean delegation of almost 200 people arriving in Pyongyang in North Korea, the latest in a cascade of diplomatic developments, showing the stalling of tensions right here on the Korean Peninsula.

Among them, performance artists that include one of South Korea's most famous K-pop bands, a legendary rock group and other famous singers. They flew by charter flight from South Korea into North Korea.

Before that, we heard this from some of the performers who were getting ready to the stage take this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I hope the warm spring day comes in South and North Korea through a performance of the South Korean art troupe in Pyongyang.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is our great honor to perform with veteran singers. As we're the youngest singers, we will do our best to deliver great energy to North Korean people. Thank you.

FIELD (voice-over): The South Korean performers have not taken the stage in North Korea for more than 10 years but it was just a few weeks ago that North Korea came into South Korea for the Olympics. That signaled a change in the relations between these two countries.

After that the announcement was made that there would be a summit between the North Korean and the South Korean leader. That's not scheduled to take place at the end of April and even the possibility now of a sit-down between Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump himself.

This weekend's event signal another kind of step forward when you talk about warming relations here, a cultural exchange, something that has been part of the tradition of these two Koreas dating back to 1985.

It is only happened a handful of times. But it hasn't happened in more than 10 years. So certain this is a symbolic step forward. The concert will be broadcast in South Korea, also in North Korea. South Korean groups will take the stage to perform on Sunday night. There will be a joint inter-Korean concert on Tuesday night.

It's a moment that artists tell us they feel will be moving, an opportunity to move hearts, certainly to reach out across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders. We spoke to members of the YB Band, which will be performing in North Korea this weekend. They had a similar opportunity back in 2002.

They say at that point when they performed their set for the audience, it was awkward. It seemed to be music that North Koreans hadn't heard before. Upon landing in Pyongyang now, the leader of that group says he's interested to see what kind of reaction the audience will have now, some 16 years later -- in Seoul, South Korea, Alexandra Field, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Very intriguing.

For now what's happening in the Koreas, I'm joined live from Seoul by Andrei Lankov. He's a professor at South Korea's (INAUDIBLE) University and the director of the analysis firm Korea Risk Group.

Thank you so much for joining us, Professor Lankov. Give the planned summit with North Korea, do you think it's the right decision to conduct a customary Foal Eagle military exercises in a rather more low-key fashion this time around?

ANDREI LANKOV, KOREA RISK GROUP: Yes. I believe it was the right decision because cancellation of such exercises will be excessive and would be seen as a sign of soft (ph) position.

And as a matter of fact, even the North Korean leader himself, talking to the South Korean delegation, made clear that he does not really mind such exercises being conducted.

At the same time --


LANKOV: -- even though the U.S. and South Korean sites said it's the same school as it used to be, it's really low key and relatively downsized, which is very good because big, important initiations are coming. And this is better not to drive tensions high.

SESAY: On the part North Korea, those comments ascribed to Kim Jong- un, that he understands why these drills must go ahead, that's a marked turnaround for everything we've seen in recent years, where whenever these military drills have happened, we've seen tests, missile tests and the -- and the like.

What's the calculation on the part of North Korea in making such a statement?

LANKOV: They want to reach a compromise. They are not going to surrender their nuclear weapons and denuclearization is likely to remain a dream. But they're willing to freeze their nuclear program and maybe make other kinds of concessions, too, because they don't want to be shot at.

And there have been signs that the U.S. is seriously considering a military action. And they also would like to have some of the sanctions lifted because their economy, which, by the way, used to work quite well until recently, contrary to what most people believe the last few years was successful plan for North Korea, usual market reforms.

Yes, it is going to begin a serious problem if sanctions and usually exceptionally tough sanctions will continue.

So they are looking for compromise and they are needing to keep low key and these exercises is not an exception. This is why they are sort of tacitly accepting it. And they even unofficially indicated that they don't mind this time.

SESAY: Your point about denuclearization remaining a dream is something many have said. So many agree with you. But I want to talk to you very quickly about the soft power of cultural diplomacy, which is on display with these South Korean groups performing in Pyongyang this week.

Explain for our viewers what this kind of cultural exchange can achieve that your standard suited diplomats sitting around the table cannot.

LANKOV: Well, I'm sort of optimistic about any short-term achievements but if they are talking about long-term, this type of exchanges show to the North Korean how the outside world lives.

They basically are going to like the show and it's you have (INAUDIBLE) on what they want for their country. They will be more likely to demand change. One of two concerts are not going to change it completely but it's a massive support for the forces within the North Korean society, which are arguing for a different type of North Korea, maybe slightly different, maybe really seriously different but different.

So in the long run, it is a very good idea but don't expect it to have an immediate impact right now. People who are running North Korea are bright, pragmatic, cynical, realistic, Machiavellian and they are not going to change their attitude to the world just because a group of good-looking South Korean girls are going to deliver a good performance in Pyongyang.

SESAY: Well, there are some good-looking South Korean boys there in the group as well, to be equitable.

Professor Lankov, we appreciate it.

LANKOV: I don't mind. Boys, girls --

SESAY: We take your point. Professor Lankov, we appreciate the insight and analysis. Many thanks.


SESAY: All right, shifting gears now, intentions remaining high in Gaza following the deadliest violence in the region in years. The European Union and the U.N. are calling for an independent investigation after 17 Palestinians were killed and hundreds were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces at Gaza border on Friday.

Now both sides releasing video, showing what they say happened. This is video posted by the official two account of the Palestinian Media Center. Take a look at this with me. It appears to show a Palestinian man carrying a tire and running. Then there is a shot and he appears to fall to the ground. In another video posted by the same group, a woman, you see her there, waving a Palestinian flag, seen running back and forth. Gunfire is heard and she, too, appears to fall. The Palestinian Media Center says both were shot by Israeli forces.

The Israel Defense Forces accuse the Hamas military wing of orchestrating the violence and circulating the videos as propaganda. It insists they do not accurately depict what happened. It has released its own videos purporting to show alleged sabotage attempts by quote, "terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israel" during the unrest ideas.

The IDF says its soldiers responded after facing gunshots, firebombs, rocks and rolling burning tires. And it says its troops acted in accordance with the rules of engagement, firing only when necessary.

Protests are expected to continue Sunday although on a much smaller scale than Friday's clashes.


SESAY: Funerals were held Saturday for some of the Palestinians who were killed. The founder of a Palestinian group not affiliated with Hamas said the protesters were peaceful and did not carry any weapons.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) no violence whatsoever. It was very much (INAUDIBLE) exactly the same which is very important moment (INAUDIBLE) even Hamas and (INAUDIBLE) are adopting the non-violence resistance, which should be (INAUDIBLE).

And it was not Hamas only. It was the whole population of Gaza.


SESAY: A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists Hamas organized Friday's protest and says Israel responded as necessary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An organized effort by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, to storm into Israel, to overrun Israel, thousands of people to have them stream in, bombs were placed, rockets were shot, guns were shot at Israelis.

And Israel did what any country around the world would have done. It responded by defending its citizens.


SESAY: The European Union says while Israel has the right to protect its citizens, the use of force must be proportionate. In a statement it is calling for an end to the (INAUDIBLE) and a full opening of the crossing points while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns.

It adds the E.U. further urges the Palestinian side to increase their efforts to enable the Palestinian Authority to exert its full control over Gaza.

In the United States the president is attacking Amazon again with claims that are not backed by facts. Trump tweeted the U.S. Postal Service loses money on each Amazon package it delivers.

The president also accused "The Washington Post" of being a lobbyist for Amazon. Here's a fact check. Amazon actually pays the same as other bulk shippers. The U.S. Postal Service says its deal with Amazon is mutually beneficial.

And while both "The Washington Post" and Amazon have the same owner, Jeff Bezos, they operate independently. Amazon does not have a stake in the newspaper.

Quick break now. And struggling to feel safe in the United States, coming up a discussion about why police encounters are terrifying for many African Americans.




SESAY: Sacramento, California, has just gone through five straight days of protests against police brutality in the U.S. The fuse was lit by the death of Stephon Clark, an armed African American man who was shot and killed by police just two weeks ago.

Police say he said he had a gun but it turned out to be a cell phone. For Stephon Clark's loved ones, that's not a good enough excuse for ripping a loving father away from his two sons, ages 1 and 3.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All he wanted to be was a good father. He read stories to them. He played games. He sang. He danced.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He videotaped everything they did. He was so proud. He was the most proud he has ever been when those boys came into the world.


SESAY: Thousands of mars were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They are reckoning with their own deadly shooting, this one from 2016. That's when two police officers killed Alton Sterling, an African American man, in front of a convenience store.

On Friday, officials that they fired one of these offices and released four videos from that night. Kaylee Hartung has more and a warning for you: some of this footage is graphic.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Graphic and disturbing new video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I do? What I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't (inaudible) move. I'll shoot your (inaudible). Put your (inaudible) hands on the car.

HARTUNG: Showing the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling in July 2016. The Baton Rouge chief of police announcing Officer Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling six times during a struggle with him, will be fired over his actions.

CHIEF MURPHY PAUL, BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The violation of command of temper has been sustained. Officer Blane Salamoni has been terminated from the Baton Rouge Police Department effective today.

HARTUNG: This week, Salamoni refused to answer any questions. During a disciplinary hearing, the chief said, while Howie Lake, the other officer involved, answered them all. Lake, who the chief said, made mistakes but controlled his temper during the encounter was given a three-day unpaid suspension.

PAUL: Two different perspectives and one officer did not follow the tactics training, professionalism and organizational standards.

HARTUNG: The police chief making it clear their administrative investigation was separate from the federal criminal charges both officers were already cleared of. The police department released four videos from the night of the shooting, including this surveillance footage from the Triple-S Convenience Store.

That's Sterling at the front of the store, sitting at a table where he's selling CDs. Minutes into the tape, he's seen conducting a transaction with an unidentified man. Here he removes what appears to be a gun from his front pocket followed by money from the same pocket.

Within seconds, Sterling is seen jokingly making a shooting motion towards the man. That night police were initially called to the Triple-S Convenience Store responding to a 9-1-1 call from a witness who saw a man with a gun. Watch closely as things escalate quickly. From Salamoni's perspective, you can see a brief struggle, then his gun is trained on Sterling's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to shoot you in your (inaudible) head. You hear me? Don't you (inaudible) move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Hold up. Hold up. You're hurting my arm.

HARTUNG: Sterling then was pinned to the ground and Tased twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground! Get on the ground! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pop him again, Howie!

HARTUNG: Before being fatally shot. Previously released cell phone videos recorded by bystanders show at this point in the encounter Salamoni believed Sterling was armed. A gun was recovered from Sterling's body.

But the federal and state investigations determined that the officer's actions were reasonable and couldn't prove that Sterling wasn't reaching for a gun.

A family attorney says that what they find most disturbing about this new video is the language the officers used, the way they cussed at Alton Sterling, the way they called him names while he lay bleeding and dying on the ground -- in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Kaylee Hartung, CNN.


SESAY: Let's discuss this further. We're joined by retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey, who comes to us via Skype from L.A. and CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill, who's also with us via Skype from Philadelphia.

Welcome to you both.

Cheryl, let me start with you there. As we just heard that in that report, state and federal officials deciding not to file charges against those two offices in the shooting of Alton Sterling, saying their actions were justified.

Then days later police say Officer Salamoni violated use of force policies. The contradiction does not make sense to many people.

Does it make sense to you?

CHERYL DORSEY, LAPD (RET.): No, it doesn't and he doesn't get credit for something that he did not know, which was that Alton Sterling did in fact have a gun.

He didn't know whether or not he had a gun when he was yelling at him, when he was cursing him out, when he was threatening to shoot his effing head off. He was punishing Mr. Sterling because he could. He was abusing his authority and then he made good on that threat. He executed this man because he wasn't following his orders.

And police officers are not trying to do that; thus he was fired. My concern is that he'll, in two weeks, like Betty Shelby (ph), go get a job in a neighboring police agency and do the same thing again. He's learned nothing until he's convicted.

SESAY: Marc, to bring you, Cheryl lays out some of the actions that we saw there in that video, four videos have been released in recent days and we see Salamoni shouting profanities at Sterling. We see him slamming him into the car, twice ordering the second officer to Tase him, for him to shoot Sterling. We see him holding that gun -- [00:20:00]

SESAY: -- at his head.

And yet, to go back to that point, federal and state officials declined to bring charges against officers. What does this say to you about the path towards achieving justice, holding police accountable when it comes to the shooting death of unarmed black and brown men?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN COMMENTATOR: That it is nearly impossible to get justice from the criminal justice system (INAUDIBLE) essentially asking the police (INAUDIBLE) internal affairs to police themselves. And they almost never find police officers guilty.

(INAUDIBLE) grand jury or if it's in the prosecutors' hands, prosecutors rarely want to charge police officers for killing civilians. It is very difficult to convict, even if it makes it to a trial, it is very difficult for jurors to convict police officers, even when there's videotape, even when there's incontrovertible evidence, as we see in (INAUDIBLE) South Carolina, as we've seen in other cases.

It's very, very difficult to do that. And so ultimate the message that gets sent is that black and brown bodies simply aren't worth as much as others when it comes to law enforcement.

SESAY: And Cheryl, to pick up on what Marc just said, according to that 2016 Department of Justice report on the Sterling killing, it took less than 90 seconds from the moment Officer Lake first approached Sterling to the firing of the final shot. In the case of Stephon Clark, who was shot most recently in Sacramento, in his grandmother's backyard, officers mistook a cell phone for a gun, directed 20 shots at him.

Six struck him in the back, one in the neck, the other in the thigh. Again it comes back to this question, when we're looking at police here in the U.S., are we looking at a case of shoot first, ask questions later when it comes black and brown men?

SHERYL: Absolutely. We're looking at a case of shoot first and then create a scenario, manufacture probable cause, a reasonable suspicion, create fear after the fact to justify and substantiate that shooting that should have never occurred. In the case of Stephon Clark, both officers were in a position of cover and concealment around the House.

They had the benefit of an air unit overhead, which he could not outrun. So there was absolutely no reason for them to engage, certainly in deadly force and especially 20 rounds. It was excessive. Officers are trained to fire two rounds, generally reassess the threat and make the determination where more rounds -- whether or not more rounds are required.

And clearly that wasn't done. This was an execution of this young man.

SESAY: Marc, the killing of Stephon Clark was put to the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders. She says it's a local matter.

What does that say to you about this administration and its level of interest in any kind of national dialogue when it comes to community policing, police reform, criminal justice reform?

Has that moment, has that ship sailed?

HILL: That ship sailed a long time ago. Under the Obama administration, there were times when we didn't have sufficient dialogue, national dialogue about these sorts of matters. I would have loved for President Obama to have weighed in more.

But he is a civil rights freedom fighter in comparison to what we've seen during the Trump administration. To call this a local matter is accurate if it were in isolation. The problem is that this is not only a single instance; it is rather one side of a much bigger problem.

Every week, every month we're seeing these types of cases. It is a national epidemic and it's something that the president can speak to in the same way that he speaks to a school shooting.

I could call a school shooting a local matter but we don't because, one, it is a national tragedy when white people die. And, two, because it's clearly connected to a bigger problem, that same larger problem is the case when it comes to Stephon Clark, Alton Sterling, Shawn Bell (ph), Trayvon Martin, I'm going down the list.

And so it's necessary for the Trump administration to speak to this. And by ignoring it, he's denying the role of law enforcement and the politicians not just locally but nationally and creating not just a dialogue but a difference in the state of affairs and a different set of standards for police officers to adhere to so that this doesn't continue to happen.

SESAY: Cheryl Dorsey, Marc Lamont Hill, my thanks to you both for the honest conversation. It's very much appreciated. Thank you.

DORSEY: Thank you.

SESAY: And we'll have much more news right after this.





SESAY: Hello, everyone.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush hasn't missed a beat since leaving office and that's just on the dance floor. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George W. Bush may never top this. This his performance back on malaria awareness day 2007 makes you nostalgic rejoice that at age 71, he's still tearing up the dance floor.

At his nephew's wedding in Colorado, he danced with the bride to "You Spin Me Round."

Hold it. Freeze it.

Is that George Bush move remind you of anything?

Shades of the back rub he once gave German leader Angela Merkel, only at the wedding he may have been trying to start a conga line.

The memories come flooding back, tap dancing for reporters, swiveling his hips and an overseas trip.

The current White House occupant has confined himself to sword and slow dancing.

Though he hammed it up in the past on "SNL".

TRUMP: You used to call me on the cell phone.

MOOS (voice-over): People tended not to laugh when too cool for school Obama danced. He even attempted...


MOOS (voice-over): -- to tango without practice, daring to try a dip that didn't quite work out at the end.

This is a guy who even bit his lip listening to Stevie Wonder. It takes nerve to shake it under the unblinking gaze of the public eye.

That didn't stop Chris Christie from dad dancing as a Republican then as a Democrat. And Republican strategist Karl Rove threw strategy to the winds is in the worst dance ever.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the best humor is when you make fun of yourself.

MOOS (voice-over): Will Ferrell joked that Trump makes Bush look pretty sweet.

WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN, "GEORGE BUSH": And remind you guys that I was really bad.

MOOS (voice-over): At the time you twirled your daughter into a near wardrobe malfunction -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SESAY: The dance floor has seen it all. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines after a short break.