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North Korea Will Reconsider Trump-Kim Summit if U.S. Insists On Unilateral Nuclear Abandonment; North Korea Suspends Talks With South Korea, Warns U.S.; North Korea Threatens to Pull Out of U.S. Summit; Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim Pardoned and Released From Prison; Palestinians Hold Funerals For Slain Protesters; Thomas Markle Will Miss Ceremony Due to Surgery; Royals' Strained Relationship with Tabloid Media; "Avengers: Infinity War" Opens Big in China. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 16, 2018 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:15] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom, live from Los Angeles.


Ahead this hour, art of the deal North Korean style, Pyongyang tries to set the terms for the upcoming Kim-Trump summit and threatens to walk if the demands aren't met.

International condemnation for Israel and the bloodshed on the Gaza border, while the U.S. argues the Israelis showed incredible restraint.

First he won't, then he will, now, he won't again. The father of Meghan Markle says he won't be walking her down the aisle because he'll be recovering from heart surgery.


Hello and thanks for being with us. I'm John Vause. We're now into the second hour of Newsroom L.A.

North Korea is threatening to cancel next month's historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.


The North says it will not be pushed into a corner over its nuclear program and will reconsider the talks if the U.S. insists on unilateral nuclear abandonment.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now, live from Seoul.


Paula, this now seems that the North Koreans are setting the terms for the summit and what is incredible here is, all this is playing out in public. PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, there's a lot of speculation as to whether this is negotiations ahead of the summit, whether this is a threat to the United States, but what it is in some ways as well is the fact that it's what the U.S. President, Donald Trump, has also done.

He has said in advance that if the talks don't appear to be fruitful he'll walk out. He may not go if it doesn't look like it'll go the way he wants it to. So, effectively, Kim Jong-un is doing pretty much the same as that.


He is saying through state run media KCNA that if it is the case that it is unilateral denuclearization that the United States is pushing for, and they are going to push them into a corner, then this is not the kind of summit that they want.

Now, we've also had the North Koreans pull out of high level talks with the South Koreans today, that was supposed to be happening right now.


That was just cancelled a matter of hours ago, no reason given for that, or at least that the written response was not publicized. But, they have been saying one of the reasons is Max Thunder, which is this military drill of the Air Forces of the U.S., and of South Korea, which are carrying out a military exercise at the moment; it is one that happens every year.


And, even though in the past couple of months we've heard the North Koreans saying through Kim Jong-un that they would potentially understand why they have to have these military drill, clearly this is not the case at the moment. But, I think the assumption among many people is that this is the counter-negotiation from North Korea.

Having agreed to a certain amount over recent months, now they are countering with what they would like to see.



VAUSE: Okay. Paula, thank you.

Paula Hancocks there, live in Seoul.

Let's go to Philip Yun now, the Executive Director of the Ploughshares Fund. He's a former advisor on North Korea to President Bill Clinton. He joins us now, once again, from San Francisco.

Okay, so this threat talk from the North Koreans not exactly a surprise. Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, pulled this stunt on multiple occasions.

PHILIP YUN, FORMER ADVISOR ON NORTH KOREA UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Yes, absolutely. I was waiting in certain ways for this to actually happen. Where negotiations with North Korea are rarely, if ever, a straight line and you get a lot of bumps in the road. I've been a number of negotiations with them where you thought you were well on your way and then suddenly they pull something that stops everything cold.

So, this is a negotiation that's going on here and it's an effort in one part to get a lot of leverage - - more leverage on - - on - - on the parties. The critical thing is why are they doing this right now, relatively early? Some discussion that it might be some internal dissent, which is certainly possible.

Kim Jong-un has to keep certain people you know in line and pleased to some degree, even though he has total control to a large extent.


But also, they have some real problems with the military exercises and part of these drills have B-52's, which they've always thought as incredibly provocative and especially offensive. So, this is a way for them to figure out a way, or draw precedent, to get that stopped.

So, there are a lot of different things that are going on here and we'll just have to see what happens.



This all started earlier in the day with this sort of mildly worded threat, if you like, about the U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Complaining about those exercises, and warning that if they continued, then the possibility of cancelling the U.S.-North Korea summit, but they did in fact pull out of that meeting with South Korean officials.

But, here's what the South Korean National Security Advisor said at the White House back in March about what Kim Jong-un had told them about the military drills.


CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.

[01:05:06] (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, they said that you know Kim Jong-un was okay with it, he understood that they would continue. Is it possible they overstated Kim's position? Or, that he just meant the military exercises, which were delayed by the Winter Olympics?

YUN: Well, I think it's certainly possible that it was overstated, but I also have to think that they were talking about exercises that were going to be planned, but it was before the North-South declaration which said that they were going to reduce hostilities and take action on land, sea and air.

So, North Koreans have a tendency when they want to be incredibly legalistic. And so, here is a situation where they had this declaration and suddenly they have what they consider something very provocative.


Again, this may be an attempt for them to try to push this forward and get it stopped. This is what conservatives in South Korea were worried about, that they were going to use this declaration as a way to prevent what they considered normal exercises between the United States and South Korea.

But, this is also directed at South Korea - - this statement here, by the fact that they pulled out of the North-South agreement. You were eluding to earlier - - the statement by Kim Jaeguon (ph), their first (inaudible) minister, which was really directed at the United States.

So, there are two different games that are going on here at different levels.


VAUSE: Donald Trump clearly wants these talks to go ahead. He's made no secret that he sees this summit as potentially his moment in history. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: This should have been handled, by the way, over the last 30 years, not now.

We will not repeat the mistake of past administrations.

The United States has never been closer to potentially having something happen with respect to the Korean peninsula.


VAUSE: If he blinks here, if he gives into some kind of demands - - the B-52's don't fly, for instance, is he badly weakened then in terms of going into these talks? The U.S. position, you know, (inaudible) the North Koreans?

YUN: Well, I don't necessarily think that's the case. I think what's happened here is Donald Trump has set expectations relatively high with this kind of conversation.

He's also made things difficult for him, quite frankly, because of the Iran deal. The Iran deal was something that we pulled out - - the United States did. It was working, Iran was keeping its side of the deal and now he's been roundly criticized for that pull out. Now he has to have a win here with respect to North Korea to some degree, something has got to happen. So, the North Koreans understand they've got more leverage in certain respects.

And, there's also the possibility that they've got the backing of China, given the shuttle diplomacy that's been going on between Beijing and Pyongyang, as well.

So, they're testing right now. The North Koreans are testing, they're seeing what they can get away with and they're also seeing what they can push the United States to move forward with. As we all talked about - - this pre-negotiation that's going on right now.

VAUSE: Philip, as always, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

YUN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Back with us now, Democratic strategist and associate professor of politics at Occidental College, Caroline Heldman, and Republican strategist Chris Faulkner.

It seems everyone in the administration, from the president on down, was blindsided by this North Korean threat to cancel the summit. Here's a statement from the Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders.


"We are aware of the South Korean media report. The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies."


Caroline, firstly, this was not a South Korean media report, it came directly from state controlled North Korean media, which essentially is a mouthpiece for the regime. And secondly, this is why all the details are hammered out before you set a date for the two leaders to sit down at a summit.

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE: Right. So, Donald Trump is discovering why it is that for three decades this has not been handled. You know, Barack Obama said this will be your Achilles heel and it definitely has been.

I think it's a miracle that Donald Trump has gotten it as far as he has, but the negotiations have started. This is a part of it. This is Kim Jong-un's playbook where you raise expectations, and then as soon as you get an agreement, you immediately say, well, I'm not going to do this.

Over these drills that happen every year, and as much as you know certain bombers might be an issue, he's known about this for quite some time. And so, this is just brinkmanship and right now Kim Jong- un is winning. He's put Donald Trump in a vulnerable position.

VAUSE: More Trump than Trump.

HELDMAN: More Trump than Trump, and I don't think we're going to get a good outcome with these negotiations and this is just the first of many signs indicating that.

VAUSE: And to be fair, Chris, the president has described Kim Jong-un as being open and honorable, and nice. He gave him five starts, I think, for the Airbnb there in North Korea at the gulag.

But, he's also hedged over the past few weeks, as well, about this upcoming summit. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: If the meeting, when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.

[01:10] If it's not going to be fair and reasonable, and good, I will - - unlike past administrations, I will leave the table.

If it's not a success, I will respectfully leave. It's very simple.


VAUSE: Okay, we get it, he could walk away. But really, in many ways Donald Trump is betting the farm on a successful summit to hopefully help him in the mid-term elections here in the U.S. Maybe he'll win a Nobel Peace Prize, this could be his moment in history.

With all of that, how likely is Donald Trump, you know, to walk away from all of this? To give it all up?

CHRIS FAULKNER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Let's reel back on the cynicism just a bit. Let's just take - - just for the sake of conversation, that he might actually want peace and might not want . . .

VAUSE: He probably does, but . . .


FAULKNER: Well, all you're talking about is Nobel Peace Prizes and mid-term elections.

Nuclear stability or the lack of nuclear proliferation in Asia, everyone agrees is a good idea. Donald Trump is advancing a policy that multiple administrations have backed and quite frankly he's gotten a lot further than anybody else has.

Whether you agree with how he's gotten there, or whether he got there by blind luck, we still have to acknowledge the fact he's gotten further than any president . . .


VAUSE: Because what have the North Koreans offered that they have not offered other presidents in the past?

FAULKNER: What you clearly see is China taking a more active role.

VAUSE: What have the North Koreans offed the U.S. that they have not offered other U.S. presidents in the past? They've always offered talks, it's always been on the table


VAUSE: They've destroyed the Yongbyon nuclear power plant. They blew up cooling tower back in 2008. Now, they're dismantling the nuclear testing site, which many have said it's collapsed anyway and it's no longer useful.

They've suspended nuclear tests before. They've suspended their missile program before. I'm not entirely sure when people say he's gotten so far along - - I mean, yes, it looks like it, there's atmospherics here, but for substance I'm not so sure what there is.

FAULKNER: Well, for substance, there hasn't been any substance because there hasn't been any talks yet. We can all agree on that.

In terms of whether or not the North Koreans are rational players, we can all agree that they're not. They're actually is in Panmunjom a little building where the North Koreans and the South Koreans sit, and literally the North Koreans won't agree to sit down at the table unless their flag is taller.

VAUSE: Right.

FAULKNER: So, this is the mindset of which we're dealing with here. So, whether or not they're going to try and negotiate, and gain leverage before these talks, of course they are.

Now, whether or not we're being taken advantage of, I think that's going to be something we're not going to be able to really know until 10 years - 20 years down the road. But, in terms of trying to advance nonproliferation nuclear weapons, this is something I think everyone can get behind.

VAUSE: We also have this reporting from CNN.


"Just weeks before the Winter Olympics, the president ordered his top national security officials to prepare to evacuate the families of all U.S. military personnel living in South Korea, four current and former administration officials said. The presidential order is the clearest indication yet that Trump viewed war with North Korea as a real possibility, even as recently as the beginning of this year."


So, in terms of where Donald Trump was at the beginning of the year, Caroline, we've come a long way. That has to be seen as nothing else as some kind of positive, yes? HELDMAN: Well, it's certainly positive for the United States. I think Donald Trump's position was rather naive, if you will.

We can certainly do something with sanctions, we can do something with diplomacy, removing the leader is not going to have the effect that it might in other countries, but going to war - - whether a ground war, or otherwise, is something that is incredibly ill advised, and when he said that people were very critical of it.

But at the end of the day, I don't think he's going to get further than previous presidents, because there is no way - - there is zero possibility that North Korea is going to give up its nukes. So, we're not going to get what we want. What do they want from us?

They want Kim Jong-un to sit down with the U.S. President, so he appears to be his equal, which is a propaganda coop. They probably want some sanctions lifted, they want some aid, it is likely that we will be giving them things and getting very little in return.

VAUSE: Okay. We'll move on now, because over the weekend the U.S. President sent out a very odd Tweet about working with the Chinese President to save a smart phone maker called ZTE.

The backstory here is that this company was hit with huge fines for violating Iranian and North Korean sanctions. It's now almost two days before the Tweet - - a billion dollar property development in Indonesia with ties to the Trump organization, is expected to get a huge loan from China.


According to the South China Morning Post, "The park - - expected to be backed up with up to US $500 million in Chinese government loans - - is part of an integrated lifestyle resort known as MNC Lido City."

". . . marketing materials for MNC Lido City refer to the theme park and Trump properties as flagship elements of the development, and corporate filings and internal documents show the Trump organization and the president's two sons have been directly involved in various stages of its planning."


Chris, coincidence?

FAULKNER: It is only a coincidence if you look at this one small speck, and try and take it out of context. They also sell Trump neckties, I'm sure the department store somewhere, where people still buy those. It doesn't mean that somehow the president's in collusion with Nordstrom.

[01:15] The reality here is that China is building a new Silk Road, a $25 trillion infrastructure project and this is one small pebble in that, and it was already negotiated in terms of use of the Trump name with basically a franchisee in Indonesia. It's not like there is like direct talks with the Trump administration and China saying, hey, we'll do this.

I think what's more interesting is that Chuck Schumer agrees with this and thinks this is a great idea. So, anytime when the leader of the opposition is saying the president did a great job, we should all take a step back and say, "What's going on here?"

VAUSE: Well, there's not just the issue with the $500 million loan. There's also the issue of national security. Many within the intelligence community and many U.S. lawmakers, especially Republican, believe ZTE cannot be trusted. Here's Marco Rubio.


MARCO RUBIO, U.S. SENATOR, FLORIDA: I think ZTE is a company that has, in addition to posing a significant espionage threat against the U.S., is part of an overall industry in China that steals intellectual property.

Number two, they were sanctioned for violations of sanctions against North Korea and Iran. And so, somehow now it's removing sanctions on them and it's changed to removing tariffs on farmers that didn't do anything wrong, doesn't sound like a good deal to me.


VAUSE: Caroline?

HELDMAN: Well, I think there's one of two options - - the motive here, either it's to benefit him personally, Donald Trump and his enterprise, which I don't think the timing is something light here. I think it - - last week the financing was approved and now he's Tweeting this.

The other possibility is also the mid-term elections, right? We're looking at a loss - - an electoral loss for Republicans in states with agriculture. But, if you look at why we're in this position, it's because Donald Trump essentially started a trade war with China by increasing tariffs on aluminum and steel.

And in response, China is threatening agriculture tariffs. So now, we are putting national security at risk - - Donald Trump is, by trying to get this company to do business with U.S. companies again. We are putting national security at risk in order to just maintain the status quo, which is a position that Donald Trump put us in.

VAUSE: Okay. I want to talk about some good news, because it seems the first lady is recovering after treatment for a benign kidney condition.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to start by saying that Melania is in the hospital doing really well. She's watching us right now and I want to thank the incredible doctors, Walter Reed Medical Center, they did a fantastic job. So, thank you and she sends her love.


VAUSE: But, there are some questions about why she is spending so long in hospital. Here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Most patients get out on the same day. It's an outpatient procedure for most patients. Some stay an extra day, if they're worried about pain or some other problem, but to stay four days or so - - which it sounds like she'll be staying, it's just unusual.


VAUSE: A lot of questions and speculations, Chris, but are Melania's kidneys any of our business?

FAULKNER: Hell no. I hope she's doing better. I'm not a doctor. I don't know. God bless her.

VAUSE: Caroline?

HELDMAN: I would agree. I don't think it's news.

VAUSE: Yes. Leave it be, we wish her well.

Okay. Thank you both. Appreciate it.

Well, still to come here, protests in Gaza have calmed down as Palestinians bury the victims of Monday's violence.


And, European leaders are demanding answers from Israel. We'll tell you how the U.S. is responding just ahead.

And, we're following a story that has dominated Malaysian politics for years. When we return, the release of former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, he's just been pardoned and released from prison.



[01:22] VAUSE: Well, in Malaysia, former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has just been pardoned and released from jail.


Anwar's case has dominated Malaysian politics for years. The 70 year old was jailed on sodomy charges back in 2015. Charges he says were politically motivated.


Alexandra Field joins us now from Hong Kong with more. And, Alex, his release - - could this be seen as the first big win of this newly elected coalition?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it could be the first steps to this man's return not just to office, but possibly to become the prime minister himself. Look, this has been such a significant and historic week in Malaysian politics. John, so much ground shifting in just the last week.


The party that has led since the independence of that country, removed from power of Prime Minister Najib, who's been plagued by allegations of corruption. Ousted by the country's former prime minister who came out of retirement in order to lead a victory of a coalition of opposition parties.

And part of this victory propelled by a promise to free the man that you are seeing on your screen. Anwar Ibrahim, he was the former deputy prime minister of Mahathir, but the two men became political enemies. That's after Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption in the late 1990's under Mahathir.

He was eventually released from jail. He went on to become an opposition party leader. He was then jailed again on sodomy charges under Prime Minister Najib. He has remained in jail since then. You can see him leaving a hospital this morning, he was being held there after having a surgery recently performed.

But, one of the big campaign promises made by Mahathir, was that he would turn over power to his former political rival within the next few years. That means, of course, that Anwar had to be released from jail first, while he was set to be released in June just about a month from now.

Instead Mahathir arranged for a royal pardon, that means that Anwar will now become eligible to run for office, something that he would otherwise not have been able to do.


An incredible and historic day in Malaysia, really on the heels of an incredibly significant week there.


VAUSE: It has been a surprising week, to say the least.

Alex, thank you.

Alexandra Field there, live in Hong Kong.

Well, Palestinians are beginning the grim task of burying their dead, those killed by Israeli forces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) The protests in Gaza have started to dwindle, on Tuesday there was

relative calm after at least 60 deaths the day before. Demonstrators in the West Bank, though, threw rocks at Israeli forces who then responded with tear gas and rubber coated bullets.

The British government is asking for an independent investigation into the recent violence. The U.S. and Israel blame the Iranian backed terror group Hamas for the high death toll.


Dalia Dassa Kaye is the director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy, she's also a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, and we're very glad to have you with us. Nice to see you.


VAUSE: Okay. So, on Tuesday we had this emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Counsel and Nikki Haley was there and she was essentially talking about both the Israeli and the Trump administration's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Had nothing to do with the violence that we saw on Monday. This is what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Those who suggest that the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American Embassy, are sorely mistaken. Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the State of Israel in any location.


VAUSE: Yet, that just isn't true, because the embassy move - - it may not have been the sole reason for a lot of people who turned up to protest, but it certainly was a reason among many.

KAYE: Yes. Well, I think it - - to be fair, the protests did start on March 30th, Hamas is capitalizing on an existing situation, but absolutely it's not a coincidence and this was the highest death toll you've had since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

So, it was a very, very bloody day and I think what's unfortunate is you didn't even see a recognition by the United States of the loss of life. Whoever is to blame, there still is a lack of sympathy simply for one side of this conflict.

[01:25:05] VAUSE: Gaza is this tiny group of territories that has so many problems. There's 2 million people there, but when I was covering this story, you know 10 years ago, there was 1.2 million people in Gaza. Now, you know, it's 2 million people, it's overcrowded, there is no shortage of desperation, unemployment is ridiculously high. Egypt controls the rougher border, Israel controls the sea border and the border near the land crossing in through Israel. They don't let anybody in or out, it's very difficult to get in or out, for the most part.

This is a place which the U.N. says will be out of fresh water in less than two years, it will actually be uninhabitable. What happens then?

KAYE: Well, it's not going to be a good ending. Things are only going to get worse. When you have an entire population in such despair with (inaudible) humanitarian consequences.


We actually, at my organization are doing a big report on the health consequences of this disaster in Gaza. They're with no political solution in sight. So, unfortunately, it's not clear what the endgame is and I think that's what a lot of people are upset about with this Jerusalem move, is there was no clear strategic purpose and no political goal in this effort.

VAUSE: With that in mind, Nikki had repeated the administration line recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital does not impact final status negotiations on borders and boundaries and religious sites in Jerusalem as well. This is what she said.


HALEY: AS a president said when he announced the decision in December, the location of our embassy has no bearing on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem for the resolution of contested borders. It has no bearing on Jerusalem's holy sites.

It does not prejudge whatever the parties might negotiate in a peace agreement. It does not undermine the prospects for peace in any way and yet, for some, this is supposedly a cause for violence.


VAUSE: Yes. That may be the hope, at best it's debatable, but it certainly isn't the reality, is it?

KAYE: Yes, you know, for an administration who talks about you know facing reality from the ground, this doesn't seem particularly realistic. I think we've moved further - - I don't think the prospects, frankly, for peace were that great before this uptick in violence.

But, I think this decision absolutely is the nail in the coffin. If it was done in a different way, where there was recognition of Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem and that was part of a broad peace plan, we didn't see a peace plan rolled out on Monday.

So, all of this raises a lot of questions about the U.S. ability to broker a peace, willingness to broker a peace and any prospects for peace moving forward. VAUSE: This feels as if the Band-Aid's been removed, essentially now

they're treating this conflict from the Trump administration point of view. The Israelis have won, the Palestinians have lost. They're not equal partnership in this negotiation. The Israelis essentially dictate the terms, the Palestinians get what they get.

KAYE: Yes. You know, it tends to be an operating style of this administration, is you know keep the pressure on and the other side will capitulate and this time they have unequivocally taken Israeli's side.

And, of course, Israel has every right to view Israel as its capital, it is the capital defacto of Israel, but the idea that the U.S. is so one sided in this conflict, is really raising questions about, you know what are the Palestinians options?

And they've really been neglected not just by the United States, but by their own leadership and pretty much everybody in the world. So, it's not a good situation moving forward.

VAUSE: When I was there they used to complain about George W. Bush and Barack Obama being one sided, you know, always being on Israel's side against the Palestinians. Now it's gone to a whole new level.

KAYE: It is a level we have never seen. It's unprecedented, actually.

VAUSE: Dalia, thank you.

KAYE: Yes. Thank you.

VAUSE: Appreciate it.

Next here on Newsroom L.A., after a couple of U-turns, Meghan Markle's father seems to be selling out on his wedding plans.


Isha Sesay is live in Windsor. Hello.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, John. Yes, we will have all the details on the bride's father. Will he or won't he make it to the big day? Stay tuned to find out.




[01:32:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back -- everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour.

North Korea is threatening to cancel the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump planned for next month. An official quoted by state media says North Korea will not be pushed into a corner on nuclear abandonment.

The North is also upset over new joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. It postponed talks with the South which was scheduled for Wednesday.

In Malaysia the former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is free after being granted a pardon by King Muhammad. He was jailed on sodomy charges which he called politically motivated. The pardon could pave the way for him to succeed the country's new leader Mahathir Mohamad who won last week's election and has promised at some point to step down.

After a series of announcements and reversals and then he's doing it again, it appears Meghan Markle's father will not be attending the royal wedding.

TMZ reports Thomas Markle will have heart surgery on Wednesday. Initially he said he would miss the ceremony after reports that he had staged photos for the paparazzi.

Oh dear, family drama, family drama. (INAUDIBLE)

Here's Isha Sesay who joins us now from Windsor. Hey -- just very quickly have you picked out a frock?

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, my frock is ready -- John. I know how concerned you are about --

VAUSE: Can't wait -- can't wait to see it.

SESAY: -- my outfit for the big day. But --

VAUSE: That's fascinating.

SESAY: -- it's all set. But let's face it. No one's going to be looking at me -- John. And --


VAUSE: Well, don't be so modest.

SESAY: I was just going to say I was going to be wondering about Meghan and her dress on the big day. Of course, we don't know the designer tapped to make this gown for this famous bride. But everyone is waiting and watching in a rather chilly Windsor.

That is the castle you see just behind me. And to the right that is the chapel-- St. Georges' Chapel where Meghan will be tying the knot with Prince Harry.

But of course, well ahead of that there has been a great deal of drama surrounding the Markle family and whether Meghan's father will make it John, as you just made clear. He now will not be attending because he says he'll be in the hospital on Wednesday for some heart surgery. I want to bring in CNN royal commentator and historian Kate Williams to talk a little bit more about this because it is dominating the news here in the U.K. Kate -- thank you for being with us on this chilly morning.


SESAY: Good morning.

First of all, let me ask you what you make of all of this -- the U- turns, the drama -- will he or won't he -- Meghan's father be here to walk his daughter down the aisle. Now we hear he won't.

WILLIAMS: Yes. It's been nonstop u-turns. It's really been extraordinary the twists and turns you see in this story. One minute we were told he wasn't coming. He was embarrassed about the photos. Then 24 hours later he was going to come. We hear that Meghan reached out to him, sent texts, tried to call. And now the latest news is he's definitely not coming because he's going into hospital first thing 7:30 -- having this heart operation, a stent put in.

[01:34:59] And so that is the question -- what's going to happen now at the chapel we can see there? Who's going to walk her up the aisle? Who's going to give the speech?

And certainly this week, the queen was expecting to meet both Doria -- Mrs. Ragland -- and also Mr. Markle. It doesn't look like she's going to be meeting Mr. Markle at all. It's just Mrs. Ragland she'll be meeting.

And are we expecting Doria to take over all the role that the father was going to take? And it's really very tough on Meghan because very stressful time, all brides their last week is a very stressful time particularly for her at the moment.

You know, a royal wedding -- all eyes upon her and she just doesn't know what's going to happen at present.

SESAY: Yes. It's very sad. We hear that she's having a very, very tough time. And when it comes to walking her down the aisle, we know that the father is quoted by TMZ as saying the mother should do it. Is there anything to stop her from walking her down the aisle -- a mother walking down a bride in this royal setting?

Nothing to stop her and this wedding is going to be slightly different anyway. It's already a bit more unconventional. Already Mrs. Ragland was going to take Meghan in the car to the chapel and that's always was quite breaking precedent. So that's already new.

We'd heard that Meghan was perhaps going to give her own speech at the reception in the palace. But certainly there's nothing to stop it and I do think that's what's going to happen.

We will see Mrs. Ragland doing this. Meghan is a modern woman. She can be given away by her mother just as much by her father. But I do think she'll find it very hard because she was hoping to have her father -- she's very fond of him -- by her side. And it's very sad that instead he'll be in the hospital and be watching it on TV like the rest of us.

SESAY: I wanted to ask you how aware the Queen is of all of this. I mean this is a family known for the protocol and everything being in place. And this is -- this is very much a break from at least modern protocol; this guy, this family drama playing out in public. How aware is the Queen of what's going on to the best of your knowledge?

WILLIAMS: She's very aware. And yes, you're right. The royal likes to plan things -- things like the royal wedding they like to be perfectly planned. This has been a last minute (INAUDIBLE) in the works.

And the Queen is going to a meeting with Meghan where you expect to get -- usually takes a day. It's a private meeting between bride and the Queen in which Meghan will actually show her dress to the Queen. Kate did it, Diana did it -- it's a really lovely moment.

And unfortunately this meeting is going to be overshadowed by the discussion of what's going to happen with the family drama. But most of all, the Queen wants to protect Meghan. She knows how difficult it is for people marrying into the royal family.

Harry is so protective of Meghan. He said before that he found it very hard to find someone who'll take him on. And that's not just because of the scrutiny that she, the wife, will suffer. Also her family -- we're seeing this now.

So Harry is so protective. Harry wants to help her. The Queen wants to help her, too. So they're really going to close ranks and try and assist her. But nothing makes up for your own family.

SESAY: No. Nothing does. We know that the father was under such scrutiny before all of this came to light because Meghan's half-sister Samantha has made a big deal out of saying that he has been hounded and even the photos that were staged where she says she had a hand in staging. And it's really to counter, you know, the kind of negative publicity and that he hasn't had any private space.

Did we know this?

WILLIAMS: I don't think we quite realized when people look at these photos say, for example, Mr. Markle popping to the shops to buy some antacid or we see him popping to McDonald's to buy a meal.

We don't realize there actually is a barrage of photographers there that apparently they were renting the house next door to him so he couldn't go out. There were seven or eight cars following him down the motorway. He's been (INAUDIBLE) stalked, followed, everyone being questioned.

And I do think he was a very reclusive man. He was living a quite quiet life and he suddenly was thrust into the spotlight and it really was very shocking for him. And I do think that families do suffer. He himself has said that has contributed to the stress, you know, they all said that Samantha has said things in the media such as that she doesn't trust Meghan's charity appearances. There's been a letter from the brother Thomas Markle, Jr.

So he's been very distressed in all kinds of ways. And I just don't think we realize when we see these paparazzi shots, these shots that for these photographers, they can sell for 100,000 pounds. They can live off for a year. The amount of intrusion and the amount of distress that causes the subject of it when they are being photographed.

SESAY: This (ph) is your perspective now. Are we aware in the past of any other royal occasion -- I'm thinking marriages, christenings -- that have had so much drama? I mean can you think back to a time?

WILLIAMS: There are always -- there's always drama about royal occasions because the eye of the world is upon them. I think weddings are always very dramatic affairs. Things can often go wrong. But when the eye of the world is upon you it seems more obvious.

But certainly I'm thinking of all of Meghan Markle's family coming over and the extended family are already in London. They are, I assume (ph) going to be reporting for other news channels -- and they said they hoped they might still get an invitation at the last minute which we don't think is likely.

But we have to some examples of royal coronations, royal weddings and particularly one of George IV in the past where actually his wife was locked out and they said she banged on the doors saying please let me in. I'm the wife. I want to be queen.

[01:40:07] So I don't think we're going to see that on the day but certainly this is really -- it's really tough for the family of someone who marries into the royal family. It was hard for that of Princess Diana's family -- a very aristocratic family. It was tough for the Middletons -- a very wealthy family.

And I think we do have to think about this for the future. We can't have this for the girlfriends and boyfriends of Charlotte's and George's. People do deserve some type of privacy.

SESAY: They do. They do.

Kate Williams -- thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: It's so good to speak to you.

SESAY: Really appreciate it.

So John -- I mean I think that's the thing. We have to spare a thought for the bride -- the bride's needs that this is a very, very difficult time for her. I mean every girl wants her father with her on her big day and she was counting on, you know, Thomas Sr. walking her down the aisle and by all accounts that will not be the case.

It is very sad because, you know, weddings have enough drama as it is, let alone having this play out -- VAUSE: Don't they?

SESAY: -- in the public eye.

VAUSE: Yes. And she hasn't put a foot wrong --

SESAY: Yes, they do.

VAUSE: -- and still hasn't put a foot wrong and, you know, everyone's giving her so much praise but it's just, you know, the half brothers and sisters and father that's sort of causing all the uproar, which is as you say it's insane (ph).


SESAY: Well, you know what they say. You can't choose your family. That's what they say.

VAUSE: Yes -- exactly.

SESAY: Or your co-anchor.


VAUSE: Yes, management does that for us. Thank you.

Ok. Well, all of this, coming just days before the wedding and it underscores the royal family's difficult relationship with the tabloid media.

Anna Stewart reports on their history of trying to keep the press at bay.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was the most watched event in television history. More than 700 million people tuned in to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. They came for the pomp, the circumstance, and of course, the dress.

STIG ABELL, JOURNALIST: In many ways she was a reality TV star before reality TV existed. She was a Twitter star before Twitter existed. She was just this focus of attention, not just for Britain but the whole world.

STEWART: Diana's arrival on the world stage ushered in a golden age for Britain's tabloid newspapers and the rise of paparazzi tactics that many believed caused her death.

Photographers were chasing her in Paris the night she was killed in a car crash.

ABELL: It was the fact that photographs of her were so valuable that she was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the bride. STEWART: Arthur Edwards has spent more than four decades photographing the royal family for "The Sun" newspaper.

His photos of Diana pushed "The Sun's" circulation to record highs.

ARTHUR EDWARDS, PHOTOGRAPHER: The royals will say this is private. This is intrusion. But it is fact. It's a news story. If you get a prince of this country, a prince of the realm seeing a girl, she could be his wife.

STEWART: Today the rules have changes for those who cover the royal family.

EDWARDS: You cannot knock a doorknocker more than once if it's on a story. You cannot harass people. You cannot follow people in cars. You can't do any of that.

STEWART: And there are (INAUDIBLE) from Diana's sons Princes William and Harry who still blame the press in part for the death of their mother.

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL CONTRIBUTOR: What you see today is a very guarded royal family. William and Harry have both been very clear in terms of what is acceptable when reporting on their private life. And yet the press always takes it a step further.

STEWART: In 2016, Harry issued an unprecedented statement condemning the press when he felt the initial reporting of his and Meghan's relationship cross the line.

ARBITER: They've drawn a line in the sand. They said, ok, this is enough. Back off or we'll restrict all kinds of access.

STEWART: Newspaper reporters and photographers have complained about the limited space they're being offered at the actual wedding ceremony itself. They say they had much better access at the wedding of William and Kate and that was six years ago. Since then the royal family has grown a huge social media presence.

ABELL: Why would you want your message to be mediated by people who are scurrilously looking for a story if you didn't have to? And I suspect that's what they think now.

On Monday Harry and Meghan quickly responded to a scandal surrounding Meghan's father. The couple issued a statement asking for quote, "understanding and respect". But on Tuesday morning, the story was front and center splashed across page one.

Anna Stewart, CNN -- Windsor.


VAUSE: So -- want to go to the wedding, CNN cordially invites you to take part or be part of our special coverage of Harry and Meghan's big day. We'll have the I dos, we'll have the dress -- we'll have it all covered. That's Saturday right here on CNN. And there's much more here right now on NEWSROOM L.A. Right after the break, we'll meet a Palestinian trying to walk in the footsteps of Gandhi to bring peace to Gaza.


VAUSE: Well Russia is celebrating the opening of the longest bridge in Europe. The Kerch Strait bridge is 19 kilometers long and links mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula.

President Vladimir Putin was riding in one of the first trucks across the span. He annexed Crimea from Ukraine four years ago. The U.S. had imposed sanctions on the companies building the bridge saying Moscow's seizure of Crimea is not internationally recognized.

Well Gaza has seen its deadliest violence in four years this week and clashes with Israeli forces have left at least 60 people dead.

One Palestinian activist though is urging protesters to put down the rocks, put down the Molotov cocktails and learn the lessons from Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Here's Ian Lee.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "What if it weren't for this cursed bullet that poisons his dreams? Why do we complicate simple matters?" A poem punctuated by the pause of gunfire and words that sparked a movement.

Ahmed Abu Artama (ph), writer, activist and self-described dreamer -- an unlikely leader mobilizing tens of thousands of Gazans with a rare but simple idea -- non-violent resistance.

"I refuse outright the idea that walls and fences separate the people from each other," he tells me. I believe people of different cultures and backgrounds should live together peacefully without borders.

The 33-year-old Palestinian says he's never thrown a rock and feels more comfortable in a library than a crowd. So of course, he stylized his movement, the March of Return, after his heroes.

AHMED ABU ARTAMA, PALESTINIAN WRITER: I like the mission of Gandhi. I like the mission of Martin Luther King.

LEE: His philosophy though failing to prevent sometimes terrible blood shed.

Young Palestinians tempt fate. Black smoke will never stop a sniper's bullet. Monday saw 60 die in a single day -- the worst violence here for years. But still they come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, I'm facing danger by coming here. But what other choice we have. I mean we're under siege -- we've been like 11 years now. LEE: The Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza limits what comes in

and who goes out. But it's not material goods they covet the most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom, Justice, Peace. Help the Palestinian people now.

[01:50:04] LEE: Israel insists Hams orchestrated this protest movement and deliberately places children in harm's way. He describes attacks on the border fence as terrorism. The international community strongly condemns Israel's use of live fire on protesters but Israeli army insists it follows the rules of engagement.

MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: It's their design to actually bring about the destruction of the state of Israel, their design to kill Israelis and we have to proceed on that assumption. And our soldiers have prevented it. So in that way it's a success.

LEE: Abu Artama claims no political affiliation and denies ties to Hamas. Teargas and blood have tested his call for non-violence still he holds on to his dream that some day Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace.

ARTAMA: We have the seeds to live together but without occupation, without apartheid, with equality, with human rights and one democratic state.

LEE: Ian Lee, CNN -- Gaza.


VAUSE: In the world of letters he was known for his wit, his powers of observation and his black suits. American writer Tom Wolfe died Monday at a New York hospital while being treated for an infection. Wolfe took on issues like pop culture, race relations and the U.S. space program in bestselling books including "The Right Stuff" and "The Bonfire of the Vanities".

He helped pioneer a literary style in non-fiction known as new journalism where writers deeply immerse themselves in the subjects they write about. He was 88 years old and will be missed.


VAUSE: For decades mystery has surrounded two pages of Anne Frank's diary and now we're learning what was hidden on those pages covered up by brown paper.

Thanks to new imaging technology researchers had uncovered four dirty jokes and the girl's thoughts on sex education and prostitution. It's not clear why she covered up those pages but Anne Frank said in her writing she was worried about people reading her private thoughts. She died during the Holocaust, 15 years old and she passed away at a German concentration camp.

There's a very loud warning about climate change at a climate summit convened by former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger in Vienna, Austria. In his keynote address, the U.N. Secretary General called global warming an existential threat for most life on the planet.

Arnold Schwarzenegger challenged one world leader in particular to go green.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: For those of you who resist because you can't imagine success without fossil fuel, we ask you to join us, everyone -- also you President Trump. Join us.


VAUSE: Participants at the summit also said that preventing rather than reducing the factors which contribute to global warming should be the goal with every country doing its part.

But don't worry once we can no longer live on this planet the "Avengers" will save us. Well, they won't but the "Infinity War" continues to make a lot of money.

Chinese audiences are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to see the new super hero film. So can China cure what ails Hollywood?

Here's Matt Rivers.


[01:54:57] MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A $200 million opening weekend for "Avengers: Infinity War" in China, thanks in part to people like these.

A fan-led event last Friday with 300 or so Marvel die-hards packed a Beijing theater to watch the film on its opening day.

"I like Thor the best because he is sincere and straightforward and goodlooking.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH, ACTOR: Who the hell are you guys?

RIVERS: In just three days, the movie had already bested the entire China runs of other Marvel movies like "Black Panther" and "Captain America: Civil War" and the film could make a run as the highest grossing foreign film ever in China.

For parent company Disney it's a massive success, the result of years of cultivating the second largest movie market in the world. Their impact is expanding in China so more Chinese viewers will come to watch Hollywood movies.

It's something Hollywood has counted on for years now. In 2017, the North American box office was widely reported to be down 2.3 percent. China was up 22.3 percent according to Chinese regulators. The market here has saved movies like "World of Warcraft" and the "Tomb Raider" reboot both of which bombed in the U.S. but did well enough in China that analysts say sequels for both could happen.

"I think Hollywood movies have high standards. They're doing well in China and I think that's because they're so high quality."

China is not a cure-all though for Hollywood's profit woes. For example, in 2017 China only allowed 34 foreign films to be shown here and this year probably won't be much different. Plus there is increasing competition from films made right here in China.

The top foreign film in 2017, "The Fate of the Furious" made 2.6 billion yuan here. "Wolf Warrior 2" a Chinese-made action film made more than double that amount. But despite those long-term concerns big studios will keep looking to China in theaters packed with heroes who may not save the world but could give a boost to Hollywood's bottom line.

Matt Rivers, CNN -- Beijing.


VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Please join us on Twitter @CNNNEWSROOMLA. There you can find highlights and clips from the shows.

But don't go anywhere just now because I will be back with more news right after this.


[02:00:09] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

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