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North Korea Threatens to Cancel Summit with U.S.; White House Denies Gaza Violence Related to U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2018 - 07:00   ET


VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's going to be a lot of fun. There is not an adult bridesmaid, as we know, going to be there corralling these children. So I think they're going to, perhaps if anyone is going to upstage the bride, it could be this group of ten. But they're going to be very sweet.

[07:00:12] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Victoria. I will look forward to seeing you in a couple of days. Thank you very much for the reporting.

So on Friday I will be live from Windsor to preview the royal wedding here on new day. And then on Saturday, we'll be live for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's special day. Royal wedding coverage starts Saturday morning at 4 a.m. Eastern on CNN. So everybody, set your alarm clocks for that.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Here's our top story. North Korea threatening to abandon its high-profile summit with President Trump next month. The royal regime says it will not be put in a corner on nuclear abandonment.

This announcement comes after North Korea abruptly called off high- level talks with Seoul in protest of these joint military drills that are being conducted by the U.S. and South Korea.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN learning the White House was caught off- guard by North Korea's sudden about-face. So far, the White House hasn't responded to this latest statement. But earlier, said officials are coordinating closely with our allies as the summit hangs in the balance. Or does it?

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Ivan Watson, live in Seoul with the latest. What do we know, my friend?


North Korean state media has just put out another statement criticizing the U.S. for these joint air force exercises with South Korea, accusing the U.S. of arrogant, provocative acts, bringing in what they described as nuclear assets, B-52s and F-22 jets here to the region. We've all got whiplash here, because for months, North Korea has been

sending conciliatory messages, syncing up the time zones between North and South Korea, establishing hotlines and talking directly to the U.S.

So it's leaving analysts to wonder, is this a kind of a bargaining tactic, or is North Korea really prepared to follow through on its threat to pull out of what could be potentially a historic summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump next month in Singapore?


WATSON (voice-over): North Korea threatening to cancel next month's high-profile summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, stressing in a statement, quote, "If they try to push us into the corner and force only unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in that kind of talks, and we will have to reconsider whether we will accept the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit."

The rhetoric echoing earlier threats from President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go.

WATSON: North Korea's vice foreign minister asserting that they will never follow the path of Libya and Iraq, criticizing President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, by name, seemingly referencing these remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it a requirement that Kim Jong-un agree to give away those weapons before you give any kind of concession?

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think that's right. I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004.

WATSON: North Korea's warning coming after they first cast doubt on the summit when they suspended separate high-level talks with South Korea scheduled for today. The North Koreans citing their anger over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defending the joint military exercises as the news broke.

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: They're exercises that are legal, that are planned well, well in advance.

WATSON: Aides tell CNN that the announcement caught the White House off-guard. Press secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a brief statement, noting, "We are aware of the South Korean media reports. The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies."

President Trump ignoring questions about the summit after visiting the first lady in the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you meet with Kim Jong-un, sir? Will you still meet with him? Will you go to Singapore?

WATSON: The sudden step backward coming after North Korea released three detained Americans last week. And after months of what appeared to be warming relations on the Korean Peninsula and with the United States.

TRUMP: Kim Jong-un was -- he really has been very open. And I think very honorable from everything we're seeing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATSON: Chris and Alisyn, this is what's so confusing about this. Last month, the U.S. and South Korea had bigger joint military exercises and North Korea didn't complain.

[07:05:08] Also, just yesterday North Korea was inviting South Korean journalists to attend a ceremony it says will take place next week for the dismantling of its main nuclear testing facility.

And the watchdog group 38 North was publishing satellite photos dating back to May 7, showing what they claim are the first steps of dismantling that facility.

South Korea, the government here, is trying to play down this reversal in tone from North Korea, calling them growing pains in what is a very complicated process of trying to establish peace here on the Korean Peninsula.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ivan, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Let's bring in our panel to discuss it. We have CNN political analyst John Avlon and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World," and "Daily Beast" columnist Gordon Chang.

Gordon, let me start with you. So is this a typical dance that North Korea is doing or is there something bigger here?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Well, I think that there are certainly patterns to North Korean behavior. And this does come out of a playbook. But there are other things that I think are really disturbing.

So for instance, we have seen a marked deterioration in China's sanctions enforcement. And you saw Kim Jong-un, the North Korean ruler going to see Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, twice in a row in China. That's the Chinese summoning him.

And I think, actually, Beijing said, "Look, we're going to support you. And we have seen evidence of that. For instance, gas prices in the northern part of North Korea dropped dramatically this month, an indication that China's sanctions lessening.

The other thing, though, is ZTE. You know, on Sunday, President Trump had that really awful tweet about ZTE, the embattled Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer. Basically, he wilted under Chinese pressure, giving into Chinese demands as we've heard on your show. And I think that Kim Jong-un said, "Look, you know, the Chinese just humiliated the American president. Why don't I humiliate him, as well?"

And I think this was an opportunity where, really, when you have bad -- bad policy on the part of a president in one area, it just sort of -- it transmits over to another.

CUOMO: That's an interesting take. So all right. Let's deal with this, as a point of synthesis, brother Avlon. Is the media getting a little hot and bothered about something that's more the latest than it is new? Yes. This is what was expected by North Korea. They're going to engage in brinkmanship the same way that Trump did early on, saying, "I'll walk away if it's not my deal."

OK. So we're getting a little too hot and bothered. Fine. But this point of Gordon's, maybe that's an explanation for what we just saw with Trump and ZTE and China. Maybe it is part of a larger strategy that he needs their help enough on the North Korean Peninsula that the U.S. administration is worried enough about their relative leverage that he is trying to butter them up and give some things that maybe he shouldn't to try to get this other deal done.

AVLON: That's always been a factor in, you know, what is otherwise a total contradiction of Trump's traditional position. He does need China to help get North Korea, so the negotiations to go smoothly. I think if there's one thing that Donald Trump loves, clearly, it's going to be described as wilting under pressure, as Gordon just described.

But look --

CUOMO: No wilting. There's no wilting.

AVLON: There's no pressure.

CUOMO: You're the wilter.

AVLON: You're the wilter.

But look, you know, I think this is not surprising. Dictator is going to dictate. This is what North Korea does. And this is why Secretary of State Pompeo said, even coming back from the last round of negotiations, we've got our eyes wide open. North Korea's promises are not worth the paper the propaganda is written on. And they're going to throw a brushback pitch. It doesn't necessarily mean the negotiation is scuttled. It's not necessarily about the North Korea drills -- the South Korean drills with the United States.

But I do think Bolton's comments on the Sunday shows were significant, in which he said the standard is complete denuclearization before any benefits being seen. That's all stick, no carrot for the North Koreans. So it's not surprising they're going to push back. And they even called him out in the statement, saying, "We view him with total repugnance," which is a bit of an old-school North Korea propaganda line. CAMEROTA: Gordon, I do want to ask you about that. How much of this

is the Bolton effect, since there seems to be no love lost on either side. As John points out, they did put out this statement: "We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him."

And so the fact that Bolton used the Libya model on the Sunday show, is that what you think has most aroused their ire?

CHANG: You know, I think this is an excuse on the part of the North Koreans. But you know, that language about the Libyan model took me back when I heard it. And it really wasn't necessary at this particular time.

You know, we've got to remember that the substance of what Bolton said is really the same as the substance of what Trump has said and also the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. And it's probably pretty good policy.

But nonetheless, there are ways that you can communicate these things, and I think that what we hear in the administration, really, is they were just needling the North Koreans. The North Koreans, as John said, they were going to send this brushback pitch. But they didn't really have to, you know -- the administration really didn't have to do it in a way that would just aggravate the situation.

CUOMO: You know, let's talk one more step about the Libya model. Because it was very provocative. What do we know about what happened in Libya? They were told, "You're going to give us everything right off the bat." Then the Obama administration bombed there like crazy. Didn't go to Congress. That's a whole other discussion I'd love to have. And then Gadhafi went bye-bye.

AVLON: Yes, that's a tough model to have lined up as your potential future.

CAMEROTA: A euphemism.

AVLON: Libya, in dictator shorthand, sort of a dictator's rational self-interest is they did pursue nukes. They were persuaded not to do it, and he died anyway.

So the whole rationale for nuclear aspiring dictators is that they need the deterrent to insure the stability of their regime. That's the calculus. So when you -- when you float Libya, that's basically saying, you know, "You're going to give up your nukes, and things aren't going to end well for you and your family." That's not the carrot you need to get them to move on nukes.

CAMEROTA: So Gordon, what happens if -- if Kim Jong-un decides he doesn't want to do this meeting?

CHANG: Well, you know, I think that's OK, because what the United States should do is, first of all, tighten sanctions on North Korea. But more important, tighten sanctions on China. Because you know, I've always thought, you know, if the meeting with

Kim goes well, we can just ignore China's aberrant behavior. But if it goes poorly, and your question is what if we don't have that summit? Then yes, I think that we have to start imposing costs on the Chinese, going after their money-laundering banks, going after the other sanctions violations we've seen in the last two months. We just can't let it go unnoticed. Because if we do that, then we are in a world of hurt in China. Not just on North Korea, not just on trade, but everything.

CAMEROTA: All right. On that note, Gordon Chang, John Avlon, thank you both very much.

All right. Now to some weather. There have been brutal spring storms in the northeast, and they've turned deadly, the storms killing at least two people, including an 11-year-old girl in Newberg, New York, who died when a tree crushed a car. The storms knocking out power to nearly half a million customers in five states.

The National Weather Service says that there were dozens of reports of hail storms. Heavy rain turned streets into rivers in Frederick County, Maryland, leading to dozens of water rescues from cars that were stalled out. Eighty-five people there were also rescued from a stranded double-decker commuter train. Aye, yi, yi.

CUOMO: One of the rare times you had tornado warnings in New York City.

A deadly explosion of a Southern California medical facility is being investigated as a criminal act. A law enforcement source telling CNN the incident appears to be intentional.

A woman lost her life. Three others injured in the blast. Aliso Viejo, that's where it happened. Two people are now in critical condition. There's no indication of any threats made before the blast.

CAMEROTA: President Trump says his wife Melania is doing, quote, "really well" after a medical procedure, and he expects her to be home from the hospital in two or three days. The president visited the first lady again Tuesday in Walter Reed Medical Center, where she is recovering after undergoing treatment for a benign kidney condition.

CUOMO: Israel facing global backlash as its troops kill dozens of Palestinians protesting in Gaza. What could Israel have done differently? Should things have been done differently? This is getting more focused, and we're going to take you deeper next.


[07:17:22] CUOMO: Israel is defending its actions as it faces international criticism over the deaths of 60 Palestinians killed during protests at the Gaza border. The violence happening as the U.S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem Monday. Today Guatemala becomes the second country to move its embassy there. What could Israel have done differently to prevent the bloodshed? Joining us now is Jane Harman. She's a former Democratic congresswoman from California and director, president, and CEO of the Wilson Center.

Always good to see you.

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR/PRESIDENT/CEO, WILSON CENTER: We're going to miss you on this program, Chris.

CUOMO: That's all right. You can come with me at night. I'll be wearing this every day.

Let me ask you this. What could they have done? What's the answer to that question?

HARMAN: Start a little earlier. It was Trump who announced, early in his administration, that he was going to move the embassy. That is the law. I voted for it in 1995 when I was in Congress. It includes waivers which every president has given. And he did, too.

CUOMO: But hold on.

HARMAN: But when he announced it --

CUOMO: Hold on. You gave him, because I've been wanting to scratch at this a little bit. OK, so Bob Dole is running for office. He's seen as not being pro-Israel enough. This law, all of a sudden, gets promulgated as legislation. It helps him out in some ways.

But you guys put these carveouts in there, which has been exercise -- which have been exercised by every president. Which seems to show that you didn't really want to move the embassy from where it was in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Fair point?

HARMAN: It was a good aspiration. Everyone recognized the facts on the ground. So if you start there -- and I would start there -- when Trump announced early in his administration that he wanted to move the embassy, I think maybe he was a bit surprised. It wasn't a high priority for Bibi.

He later came to embrace it. I think what went wrong here is not moving the embassy. When Trump announced it the second time, I thought -- I hoped it was part of a bigger plan. This outside-in deal that Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner had been working on with the Sunni neighborhood, led by the Saudis, to help the Palestinians get to "yes" on a deal with defensible borders with Israel.

It might be more territory for Israel. It might be different borders. But that was, I think, possible.

CUOMO: Instead, you had Jared Kushner said at the embassy opening and say the people out there are protesting at a problem while they were being killed.

HARMAN: Yes. Well, so -- yes. And there is linkage, notwithstanding what Nikki Haley is saying, between the protests and the timing of the move. The Palestinians want to be heard. This is the only way they can be heard. Many of them were unarmed. And did Israel use disproportionate force? I hope not. Because I think that's a problem if they did. We don't know all the facts yet.

But all I'm saying here is that if this had been handled differently, Trump might have had one of these huge deals that he's seeking. The other one is with North Korea, which may be receding a bit, too.

[07:20:13] All of this is linked. Getting out of the Iran deal is linked to some of the resentment of Europe now. And Europe is not coming to our aid. And NATO is not coming to our aid. We'll see what happens there after the -- after he unilaterally announced that he's pulling out of these sanctions.

CUOMO: So the two points of pushback are, one, Nikki Haley said the Israeli forces showed restraint. Do you agree with that assessment?

HARMAN: I don't -- I don't know. Let's see. I mean, 60 deaths is a lot of deaths and thousands of injuries and no hospital capacity to take care of these people. I'm not excusing what they did. And I'm not excusing Hamas. Hamas is a dreadful governor of -- of Gaza.

CUOMO: And relevant here because the theory is that Hamas put these people up to this. They knew that this was a moment. They used their people as pawns to be provocative and often victims as a result. Do they share blame here, as well?

HARMAN: Yes, they share blame. But should we have been surprised by this? No. Should we be surprised that Kim Jong-un all of a sudden is making demands? No. And I'm worried about that, because I think our intelligence community was surprised.

CUOMO: Well, let's shift to that.

HARMAN: We need to know a lot more.

CUOMO: Why is Jane Harman surprised? Jane Harman is so smart. You've seen this movie with North Korea before. You knew that this is a diplomatic moon shot. You knew that North Korea wouldn't go quietly into that good night. Why are we surprised?

HARMAN: Well, I don't think we should be surprised. I think we should have anticipated this. And if John Bolton made provocative comments on TV, he should have thought about that. I'm not saying he would change, given his -- his views of foreign policy. But if it's in the newspapers, ours, and a couple of articles by David Sanger, who happens to be, at the moment, a scholar at the Wilson Center writing a book on cyber.

CUOMO: Is that why you're juicing Sanger so much. We did have him on the show twice already this morning.

HARMAN: He's brilliant. That's why we chose him. But my point is, he's written two articles in the last week. One is about how we are expanding and modernizing our nuclear arsenal as we are asking both Iran and North Korea to disarm theirs. That's one. And the second one is to adequately monitor the denuclearization of

North Korea will take hundreds of people, more than the capacity that the IAEA has for the world. And we're going to get into those tunnels and all the rest of it. And Kim is looking at this. You would think and thinking, "Oh, my God, I could end up like Moammar Gadhafi if my own people rise against me."

CUOMO: All right. So -- well, that's interesting. That's a little different than what Bolton said. It's one thing for Kim Jong-un to say -- boy, when my people -- we go to the Cuba model. That when my people get a taste of what freedom really is like, I have trouble. If it doesn't work out in Cuba, who knows what will happen in North Korea?

But Bolton seemed to be suggesting it a different way. You give us everything we want or big bombs are going to come your way. And then you're going to be gone. Because that's what the Libya model is, is it not?

Well, we caught Libya red handed. They hadn't built a bomb. There's a huge difference between Libya, North Korea, and Iran.

North Korea has 60 bombs and very advanced chemical and biological capacity, too, and they've been hiding it for 70 years. And they have a ruthless regime with the worst human rights record in the world.

CUOMO: Right.

HARMAN: Tens of thousands of people in gulags. Let's remember that before we called this guy honorable.

CUOMO: Bad regime.

HARMAN: At any rate, the -- my point is that I don't think those threats work there. They've got the bomb. It would be nice to have denuclearization of the world as an aspiration. But I don't think, my personal view -- and maybe somebody knows something I don't know -- that getting them to give everything up as a precondition to a conversation is any way to start a conversation. It won't happen.

CUOMO: And on the issue of the U.S. is building up its nuclear, the U.S. doesn't have any pledge that is of existential threat to other people in the world, right? That's the difference between the United States and Israel and Iran and North Korea.

Look, I stepped into this hole with Bibi Netanyahu when was pushing him, why he won't admit that Israel has nukes when everybody in the intelligence communities all over the world say that they do.

And his point was, and it was a fair point, " I'm not looking to take anybody out with my nukes. I'm looking to defend myself. The United States would make the same case. Do they need the same level of disclosure?

HARMAN: Well, Israel is a ration actor, and it's a democratic ally. The only truly democratic regime in the Middle East. That makes it very different from Iran, which is threatening the annihilation of Israel or North Korea, which is threatening the annihilation of the United States. I don't think that's an achievable goal.

But nonetheless, they have long-range missiles. They don't yet have reentry capacity, which is a good time for us to be negotiating some kind of containment deal.

[07:25:07] I'm all for talking to them. And I commend President Trump for focusing on North Korea and making it his first priority.

CUOMO: Do you think it happens?

HARMAN: But I'm -- I hope a conversation happens. I'd love something to happen. But I think the two huge deals he could have obtained -- one is an Israel-Palestine deal made by them but less by us -- in a neighborhood that has changed. And the other is a really good North Korea deal are receding, because we don't link foreign policy moves that we make. We've made enemies of Europe, which I think was a very avoidable mistake. And because of the way we moved the embassy, we forced the Sunni neighborhood to oppose it. And we should have predicted that there would be Palestinian violence.

CUOMO: You know, Jane, I asked you to do too much this morning. Because this is all interrelated. We need to have you back and we need to discuss this. Because the idea of the hopes, the aspirations and the realities of North Korea, that's complex stuff. It deserves its own time. We'll do that again.

Thank you for being here. You always make us better.

HARMAN: I'll miss this show with you.

CUOMO: Well, it will only get better when I'm gone -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What about me, Jane?

CUOMO: Yes, I was going to say. You stepped in one of the classic blunders on NEW DAY.

HARMAN: You've interviewed me on this show, too. You're great, Alisyn.

CUOMO: Good recovery.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you.

CUOMO: And you're back.

CAMEROTA: Thank you guys very much.

OK. So the Trump administration exploring potentially holding children who are caught at the border crossing and military bases apart from their parents. So will lawmakers support this plan? We ask a Republican congressman, next.