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EARLY START

North and South Korea Hold Historic Summit; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs on an extraordinary breaking news Friday.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, April 27th. It's 4:00 a.m. here on the East, 5:00 p.m. in the Korean demilitarized zone.

A historic summit under way at this very moment on the Korean peninsula. You're looking at live pictures of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, taking -- talking on the footpath bridge where the military demarcation sign is. Denuclearization, inter-Korean relations are the two main topics. Kim signing a guest book with the inscription, "A new history begins now."

Let's bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks live from the demilitarized zone.

Remarkable, Paula, to look at these pictures of these two leaders still I guess technically at war. An armistice going back in 1953.

BRIGGS: Yes. Still going.

ROMANS: But talking to one another face-to-face.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this is truly incredible what we have been seeing today. Now we were promised made-for-TV moments but we didn't quite expect how many there would be starting today from that image of the North Korean leader stepping over the MDL, the military demarcation line, into the South. And then President Moon Jae-in saying to him, I wonder when I'll be heading North. Kim Jong-un said what about now? So they then held hands and stepped over the border again back into the northern side of the DMZ.

I mean, it's just remarkable when you consider where we were just a matter of months ago and people were talking about a potential second Korean War. So they have had a summit this morning. After this discussion they will go back inside again and we're hoping to have some kind of written declaration, potentially we will hear from the leaders themselves.

Now we hear they are talking about denuclearization. They're talking about how to settle a peace agreement on the peninsula. As you say correctly, these two countries, these two territories are still technically at war so they need to figure out how to declare the end of the war and then sign a peace treaty with the U.S. and China involved as well.

Now it would be very interesting to hear what they are talking about at the moment but there are no body guards, no interpreters and not audio. They are having this conversation, a very candid conversation. And we have been seeing over recent hours that these two leaders appear to be getting on.

This is the first time that they have met. And it is important that they get on because ahead of them is an incredibly difficult task of trying to figure out if they are talking about the same thing when they are talking about denuclearization. Potentially here, they are also talking about that summit upcoming between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. There are plenty of things that they need to be talking about. But we have incredible optics today. Amazing photo opportunities. We are waiting to hear what the substance is.

BRIGGS: Yes. Your point is a perfect one. The symbolism, the imagery is remarkable. But what about the substance? What can they accomplish? Is the goal here to really pave the way to that another extraordinary summit between Kim and President Trump?

HANCOCKS: Effectively, yes, Dave. I mean, we've heard this from the Blue House. They see this as a guide post, as a stepping stone, I mean, it's almost the warm-up act for that summit between the U.S. president and the North Korean leader. The first one ever between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

But I mean, as a warm-up act goes, this is -- this is pretty remarkable. Now we know that the working level talks, the high level talks even, before this summit couldn't narrow down what denuclearization meant. So that was left to these two men. And you can see they have been talking now for some 15, 20 minutes. There is some very intent discussion ongoing. And it's quite rare to see two leaders at a summit like this without mikes, without anyone around them, without even their closest aides to check what they are saying.

So this is a very candid moment. Of course they know that this is being beamed around the world and that people can see them. But the very fact they're able to have this conversation is significant. They also have a hotline now that's set up between the two leaders so this isn't going to be the last time they're talking like this according to those leaders themselves.

Kim Jong-un has already President Moon to Pyongyang for a second time. He's also said, yes, I'd be willing to come to Seoul, to the Blue House. And so they are talking about future summits. This is not just about today. But as I say, we are very much looking forward to seeing what kind of communique, what kind of draft agreement will come up at the end of today. How much can they decide in one day?

The Blue House consistently said today is about finding out how willing North Korea is to actually denuclearize.

ROMANS: We know, Paula, that they had actually rehearsed this with stand-ins for both of these men. [04:05:03] They wanted to make sure that they knew the choreography of

the event. But then as you look at them sitting there on that footpath, it seems very natural. It seems very relaxed. We don't know what they're saying but they certainly both seem at ease.

HANCOCKS: They do. And you know, Christine, this is probably one of the very first times that we are seeing Kim Jong-un like this. Even when he went to China to meet with Xi Jinping. That was heavily choreographed. I mean, that was -- I mean, of course this is heavily choreographed. But we're seeing him in a more natural state at this point.

He's outside of his natural habitat, outside of North Korea where anytime we see him on state run media, we know that that's heavily edited, we know that that has been checked and that he knows exactly what is going out to the world and to his people. This is a very different situation. The two leaders appear to be getting on.

BRIGGS: Completely contrary to the image that we've seen for years and years of North Korean leaders and certainly of Kim Jong-un.

All right. Paula, we will check back with you in the next half hour.

I'm curious, Christine, at some point, will the conversation turn to human rights? We have normalized a man who is a brutal dictator and murdered, who locks up innocent people and puts them in prison camps. OK. We are normalizing this guy, as he sits there and has a chat with Moon Jae-in.

ROMANS: Although --

BRIGGS: Is there a risk in that?

ROMANS: Although ostracized for 25 years by American, Chinese and South Korean policies, he just kept moving forward with a nuclear program. So do they need to draw him in so they can figure out how to defang him?

Let's talk about this with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She joins us live with reaction from Seoul. She will be with us in just a few minutes.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Christiane can answer that questions.

BRIGGS: So much to discuss with Christiane. We're so fortunate to have her but now our first look at that secret meeting over Easter weekend between Mike Pompeo and Kim Jong-un. Just yesterday Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as secretary of State. He was CIA director a month ago and these pictures were taken at an undisclosed location in North Korea. The photos were tweeted out by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders who wrote Pompeo will, quote, "do an excellent job helping the president lead our effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula." ROMANS: Speaking of normalizing Kim Jong-un, the parents of Otto

Warmbier filing a wrongful death suit against the North Korean government, charging the Kim regime tortured and killed the 22-year- old American student. North Korean authorities arrested Warmbier on a five-day sightseeing tour claiming he stole a poster from his hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for essentially trying to take home a piece of memorabilia. But after 17 months, North Korea released him. He was returned to the U.S. in a persistent vegetative state. He died a few days later.

North Korea claims he contracted botulism in prison. His parents -- Otto Warmbier's parents said Pyongyang kept him as a hostage and intentionally destroyed his life. The North Korea government has previously denied Warmbier was tortured and that there was no immediate reaction to the lawsuit.

BRIGGS: No state dinners or military salutes for German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visits President Trump at the White House today. But we can't rule out an awkward handshake. After rolling out the red carpet for French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel gets just 20 minutes of one-on-one time with the president before a 90-minute lunch and a 30-minute press conference. That's it. We should hear from them in the 2:00 hour in the East Room. The chancellor's goal, to convince President Trump to reengage with Europe and the world on everything from the Iran nuclear deal to climate and trade.

ROMANS: Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touching down in Brussels to meet with NATO allies then he's off to the Middle East for a stop in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan. The White House says Pompeo has no plans to meet with Palestinian leaders.

BRIGGS: Embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt contradicting himself on a key point as two House committees questioned him for hours on Thursday. Republicans and Democrats alike called on Pruitt for truthfulness and clarity on the many ethics controversies that have engulfed his tenure at the EPA. Pruitt promised to set the record straight then he was asked about big pay raises given two top aides via a loophole in salary rules.

Pruitt's story abruptly shifted from an earlier FOX News interview when he told Ed Henry he knew nothing about the raises to telling House members under oath that he simply hadn't known the details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I did not know that they got the pay raises until yesterday.

I was not aware of the amount nor was I aware that the -- of the bypassing or the PPO process not being respected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Pruitt was also accused of misleading lawmakers yesterday as he explained his unprecedented 24-hour security detail. He read from what he said was an inspector general's memo about death threats he received. But the EPA inspector general later contradicted Pruitt saying it was an internal memo by an assistant that had been leaked.

[04:10:03] He also didn't have much information on the soundproof booth, again saying that was a staffer. He didn't approve it. More questions for Pruitt later today.

ROMANS: And history unfolding right now.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Want to bring you back to these remarkable pictures. The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South Korean leader meeting, chatting for now. More than 20 minutes on this foot bridge in the Korean demilitarized zone. We'll have Christiane Amanpour right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: A historic break from decades of hostility on the Korean peninsula as Kim Jong-un becomes the first North Korean leader ever to cross into the South Korean territory. These pictures from just a short time ago. Again the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korea since 1953.

[04:15:03] Consider what a historic morning this is. Kim meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, as you see, to discuss the possibility of peace between two nations still technically at war. Some extraordinary pictures, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes. And this happened just moments ago. They sat on the bridge for maybe 20 minutes together and spoken. Now we're told they are together moving inside for a second set -- round of official talks.

These are live pictures here. There you go. They are wandering from the -- this is just -- I can't even -- chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is with us in Seoul.

Christiane, it's hard to even talk over these pictures because it is so historic what we're seeing here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it is extraordinary. As you correctly say, it is the first time a North Korean heard has come South. He's not technically in South Korea but he definitely is in south of the demilitarized, you know, demarcation line. So that is really important. And symbolically also he shook his hand, President Moon of South Korea, and took him for a moment across the line. So there was sort of a symmetry. Both stepped on each side of that demarcation line.

But what's really been fascinating to watch, as you pointed out, over the last 20 plus minutes, is the two leaders on their own on the bridge. Now obviously they had security around them, but the space immediately around them was unoccupied space. It was them. They were talking. The microphones were not on them. The cameras were. But it was as much as you can have a private talk between the two leaders. And we understand from various reporting that much like President

Trump, in fact, Kim Jong-un believes in the chemistry between leaders. You know, he wants to sit around and be taken seriously, it's not just a nuclear state, a nuclear power, but a leader. This is his first and his debut onto the international stage in a meaningful way. It is his diplomatic debut, if you like. And the entire process has been so carefully choreographed by the South Koreans along with the North Koreans.

Days of rehearsal. Every detail, nothing left to chance. And yet there have been these, you know, long talks. We just saw they're going back to have another series of meetings. And I would just say, you know, having watched many peace negotiations, and we're far from a negotiation quite yet. This is just the starter to see what might be possible on the peace front and certainly on the denuclearization front. That is first front and center. Denuclearization.

So we're going to really want to know what they achieved in terms of that very long process ahead. But I have seen whether it's in the Balkans, whether it's in the Middle East, certainly watch from afar during the Cold War U.S. and Soviet leaders. When they take a walk in the woods, so to speak, when the leaders are on their own and can speak without note takers, often, you know, there are cracks in the facade.

Often they can punch through some of the -- you know, some of the sort of public paraphernalia that goes around and, you know, they can sometimes achieve things that perhaps they might not have done so quickly in -- you know, in front of the blaring lights and all the microphones. So it's a good sign and despite, you know, quite a lot of cynicism, quite a lot of skepticism about what might be achieved long term, the fact that they're talking is a very good sign -- Christine.

BRIGGS: To that skepticism, obviously, this is a leader who believed nuclear weapons were North Korea's key to survival. They had it written into their constitution. Denuclearization, an end to the Korean War, obviously central to this. Is there any hope that they will discuss human rights -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, look, let's take both those things first. You're absolutely right. Nuclear weapons were considered their survival tactic. That is why people -- all the experts want to figure out and find out what exactly Kim Jong-un means by denuclearization. And as I asked the foreign minister yesterday, you know, she said well, we'll know when we get around this table. So maybe by the end of this situation today we have a better idea of what exactly both sides mean, what they're both committed to, certainly what North Korea is committed to, when it comes to denuclearization.

As for human rights, let's be quite frank and quite clear, it is the worst violator of human rights in the world as it stands right now. And everybody wants to see human rights on the table. All the human rights activists, all the families who have been separated. All the people who are currently inside North Korea suffering in gulags and other such places. There is no doubt that this is a massive, massive issue that has to be talked about and solved and resolved for the future.

But it is not on the formal agenda today. Again the foreign minister told me that we have to address the most urgent, immediate and violent possible catastrophe, and that is some kind of deliberate or accidental nuclear conflict.

[04:20:02] That is the most important thing that they're discussion. But she said you don't know and we don't know yet, again perhaps our president, President Moon, will bring it up at this table. The North Koreans know we want to talk about it. We will see this is called a flexible meeting. She used that word. And if President Moon judges the time is right, he will bring it up. But don't count on it. We don't know either way.

And if that sounds a bit like a sort of cop-out, I then asked the senior most defector ever from North Korea. He used to be deputy ambassador to the UK until he deflected a couple of years ago. I specifically asked him about human rights. And he said of course in the future we must talk about it, but right now it's not necessarily on the table. And I understand we have to talk about denuclearization.

Of course he had a heavy dose of skepticism about whether even denuclearization was possible because it would amount to a huge amount of survival tactic, if you like, for Kim to give up. But yes, everybody is talking about human rights in the -- you know, around the periphery. But it's not formally on the agenda.

ROMANS: Being a nuclear power is Kim's only leverage essentially. And to hear some of this reporting that he is, you know, admiring the South's bullet trains. Does he want to modernize his economy and come into the, you know, 20th and 21st century? That will be interesting.

All right. Christiane, we'll check in with you again in a few moments.

Again, you're watching these remarkable pictures from earlier this morning.

BRIGGS: And just relaying one comment that President Moon's spokesman relayed from Kim Jong-un, quote, "I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation." Direct remarks from Kim Jong-un relayed to "The New York Times."

ROMANS: All right. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:26:14] ROMANS: Bill Cosby could spend the rest of his life behind bars. A Pennsylvania jury convicting the 80-year-old comedian on all three counts at this sexual assault trial. The case centered around Andrea Constand who says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home in 2004. More than 50 other women have made similar allegations. After the verdict, Cosby's accusers were triumphant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LILY BERNARD, COSBY ACCUSER: I feel like my faith in humanity is restored.

VICTORIA VALENTINO, COSBY ACCUSER: We are vindicated. We are validated. And we are now part of the tsunami of women's power and justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Cosby's attorneys have vowed to appeal that conviction.

BRIGGS: A troubling report by Centers for Disease Control finds autism is more prevalent than previously thought. The report based on data from 2014 says 1 in 59 children in the United States has autism. That is up from the CDC's previous estimate two years earlier which found 1 in 68 children had autism.

The new figures are based on 8-year-olds diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 11 communities across the country. Now this represents a 15 percent increase in the prevalence of autism over two years at a 150, yes, 150 percent increase since 2000. Now it's unclear why the numbers have increased but some experts say it may be the result of increased awareness and better autism screening. So many questions left to figure out just why the prevalence.

ROMANS: Yes. The why is the most important thing. And it may also be some researches outside because there is more awareness at the spectrum.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: So you -- there is more awareness but what kind --

BRIGGS: It may be a lot of factors. But 15 percent increase in two years.

ROMANS: 27 minutes past the hour. History unfolding. North Korea's Kim Jong-un promising a new beginning at the historic summit with the South a short time ago. But just headed into another round of talks. Breaking news coverage after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)