Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's North Korean Gamble Ends With Trust But Little Verify; South Korean President Had "Sleepless Night" Before Summit; China's Reaction To Trump-Kim Summit. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 12, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- trust without anything on paper. I think he will be surprised that this will not be viewed as positively when he gets back to Washington or even in that airplane, as he sees it right now in the moment.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: As much as progress, certainly, as he thinks.

And very interesting, this notion that you think that Kim flattered the president, impressed the president. When you heard the president use phrases that Kim is very talented and that specifically was a response to a question about human rights and human rights abuses.

Let's listen to the president when he brought up -- or was asked -- pressed on the issue of human rights.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I believe it's a rough situation over there -- there's no question about it -- and we did discuss it today pretty strongly. I mean, knowing what the main purpose of what we were doing is denuking, but discussed it and at pretty good length.

We'll be doing something on it. It's rough. It's rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there -- but it's rough. And we will continue that and I think ultimately, we'll agree to something.

But it was discussed at length. Outside of -- outside of the nuclear situation, one of the primary topics.


BERMAN: And so, Christiane Amanpour, President Trump does say he brought up human rights. He previously in this news conference, said it was brought up briefly. Clearly, not the main thrust of this but, in a way, equivocating on Kim's human rights record.

He says yes, it's rough in North Korea but it's rough in a lot of places. That is starkly different language, by the way, than President Trump has used. But certainly, President George W. Bush, human rights in North Korea was an obsession of his. This is really -- this seems to be lowering the temperature on U.S. concern over human rights in the peninsula. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, and to say it's rough in a lot of places when the international community believes it is the roughest, the worst, the most draconian in North Korea, is again to equivocate.

And, of course, look, the fact of the matter is that he probably did mention it but it is true that the denuclearization process was meant to be the biggest. That was the big thing to get their arms around and human rights would come later.

And that has been -- it happened during the South Korea-North Korea summit, the same thing. They didn't really focus on human rights. It was about denuclearization.

But here's the thing. He didn't get -- or at least he didn't tell us he got and it wasn't written in the declaration or the statement -- any sense from them of a declaration of the weapons they had, of the missiles they had.

Of the commitment to tell him and the rest of the international community -- the IAEA -- where they were so they could be verified -- at least taken stock of. Forget dismantling -- at least taken stock of. None of that apparently.

He was asked specifically did they tell you about their nuclear stockpile and he just said it's substantial. He didn't really answer that question. So that, again, is a missed opportunity.

And again, the idea of not coming out with a declaration that the other side was willing to really denuclearize itself, rather than the whole Korean Peninsula. We know what that means, the whole Korean Peninsula.

And again, I would ask Joseph and Jeff and you all, was what happened today any different than various declarations that have been issued, let's say in '92, '93 by the United States, by South Korea? It seemed very, very much the same, specifically from the North Korean perspective.

BERMAN: No. In fact, you go back to the '94 aggrieved framework which is something that people often talk about here. I just looked at some of the language. It is remarkably similar to what we have seen today.

And again, on the issue of verification, which would be one step, Ambassador, where it would take it even further, the president really offered no specifics there at all. He said yes, we're going to verify it. We'll have people on the ground, Americans and others, but that's hardly specific.

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: I think Christiane has an excellent point and this is not very different. I would say not different at all from what we have had in the past.

Clearly, what President Trump wants to convey is the -- is that there has been a summit-level commitment from leader to leader. Now, time will tell but right now, I share Christiane's disappointment that we have not gotten much to show for the expectations that they've all built up.

BERMAN: Can I ask you because you've been on the ground there dealing with the North Koreans, do you trust Kim as much as the president seems to trust him today?

YUN: No, you cannot trust his words.

I think Jeff made a great point. Flattery, I do believe, played a huge role, you know?

And so I think -- you know, in a meeting it is easy to say I've made contact, we get along, but that's not a strategy. That is not a strategy. Where is national interest? Where is denuclearization?

[05:35:02] And so, you can see this -- I would say almost, Kim Jong Un gaming it out. I'll get over this, he will accept me. I've bought myself more time. Let's see what happens.

ZELENY: It's the same as '94 but the situation is different. The nuclear program is much more advanced --

BERMAN: Oh, much more.

ZELENY: -- in 2018 than 1994, so that is the context I think which we have to look at it in. So I was astonished by that.

But I do think now the onus and the pressure and challenges on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work out the details and other voices in the administration to prefer a harder line, like John Bolton, this could be a defining moment, I think, if the president suddenly sees himself being criticized for being too weak. He is very responsive to what the -- what outsiders and people he respects think of him.

This is a -- I think it makes Mike Pompeo's job perhaps even harder today.

BERMAN: He's got his work cut out for him.

Christiane, I do want to ask you because the president says that he has received concessions from North Korea over time.

He got U.S. hostages back from North Korea. North Korea hasn't tested missiles in some months. There's been no nuclear tests in some months.

Those two things, then the return of the hostages -- that's all undeniably good. That creates an environment that is --


BERMAN: -- substantially better than what it was when they were insulting each other. So to an extent, was it worth it? The president actually had a great line if I -- you know, if I can read it here. He says, "I'll do whatever I have to do to make the world a safer place."

Was it worth sitting on the stage with Kim? The president said I'll do whatever I have to do to make the world a safer place.

AMANPOUR: Look, it is much, much better to talk than to walk for sure, but everybody has been asking themselves what happens if this summit falls short. What is the default action? What do you next?

Can you keep the sanctions pressure up? Are you forced to go back to some kind of military rhetoric or whatever? Have you actually given him what he -- what you said you were going to do -- some kind of declaration that we would see to end the war? All of those things.

Those things that you mentioned -- giving up the hostages or giving up the hostages or giving them back, the freeze on the nuclear tests, and indeed, the intercontinental ballistic missiles tests and destroying in front of the press. At least the -- at least what we could see -- the visible exterior of the nuclear test site that Will Ripley and others went and showed to the world.

That was in order to get this meeting. That was in order to get this meeting. And it was good and it's great but what happens next? What happens next?

And I think that, you know, go back to a previous Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who freaked out the whole arms control world for so long -- the antinuclear world for so long. But he engaged with a mighty enemy, the Soviet Union, at that time.

And he was -- you know, we could talk about what happened at Reykjavik when the summit kind of collapsed over a lack of knowledge of the brief. But he always said "trust, but verify -- trust, but verify."

The verify is missing from today's meeting. As long -- as far as we know there is no verify and I think that's a really important thing to take forward. And it's even less than we expected on the eve of this summit where already expectations had been lowered from the week before, the two weeks before, the months before.

BERMAN: Christiane, Ambassador Yun, Jeff, stand by.

The president on his way now to Air Force One on his way back to the United States. How will he interpret how this meeting is being analyzed? A key question.

In the meantime, let's go back to Christine Romans and Dave Briggs in New York -- guys.


What a --

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, John. ROMANS: -- remarkable hour and five minutes that the president --

BRIGGS: For a man who turns 72 on Thursday --


BRIGGS: -- the stamina is staggering.

Thanks, John.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

President Trump holding that whirlwind news conference. It's his first in 16 months, more than an hour answering questions.

BRIGGS: He accomplished something no other sitting president has done, meeting with Kim Jong Un. Was it a success? What's different between this agreement and one past presidents have made?

We'll discuss next on EARLY START.


[05:43:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should. And we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money, plus I think it's very provocative.


ROMANS: The president revealing a major concession to Kim Jong Un, stopping what he calls war games with South Korea.

The president taking questions and holding court for more than hour following his historic summit meeting with Kim Jong Un.

Let's bring in Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst, and CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde.

And David, when he goes on to talk about these war games, which are actually joint military exercises with our Democratic ally, South Korea, he also said South Korea wasn't paying its fair share. This is a concession, no question, that he gave to the North Koreans.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, ONLINE NEWS DIRECTOR, "THE NEW YORKER": It's an enormous concession. And look, again, we should all -- I hope these talks work out well. You know, he got -- there's nothing new in this agreement. These are vague assertions from North Korea and we're giving up one of our biggest pieces of leverage, these military exercises.

So I'm honestly surprised by how little --

ROMANS: Had you ever heard an American president call American military drills war games and say that they are provocative? And what does that say for our military drills everywhere else around the world?

ROHDE: I mean, the president has bragged about increasing military spending. He's ridiculed -- he said Obama decimated the United States military.

And he sat there and complained about the cost of U.S. bombers flying back and forth from Guam. I mean, he's being like cheap about our forces and our deterrents worldwide which he bragged about throughout the campaign.

[05:45:07] BRIGGS: An hour and 5-minute press conference.

He called Kim Jong Un very talented. He said Otto Warmbier did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.

Ari Fleischer, Josh, a staunch supporter of this president, said, "This feels like the agreed framework of the 90s all over again."

The president may be uniquely qualified to getting us to this moment and may accomplish what no U.S. president has.

Where do we stand right now? How is it different to what the past presidents have agreed to?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Nineteen ninety-two, 2005, and now 2018 -- every 13 years or so the North Koreans promise to totally denuclearize. As of right now, they've never fulfilled that promise. So nothing about what the North Koreans have promised in this joint statement at least or from what we've heard from President Trump is new in any way, shape or form.

What is new is that the president has acceded to what is essentially the North Korean-Chinese frame -- a freeze for a freeze. He bragged about it actually.

He said we're not going to have military exercises. In exchange, they're not going to do any testing. That's exactly what Pyongyang, Beijing, and Moscow put forth and now that's what we have.

Yes, it is different to have this high-level summit. It's a different format. It's top down, not bottom up. Maybe that's going to work.

I agree with David here. This is like we should all hope for peace.


ROGIN: But from what we've seen, it seems that the president just made the deal that Beijing, Pyongyang, and Moscow wanted with absolutely nothing new in return.

BRIGGS: We're going to check in with Beijing shortly. They have said that sanctions relief will be considered.

But, Josh, would you argue what is different here is that President Trump, Mike Pompeo, and secretary -- Mr. Bolton have promised imminent military action if the North Koreans renege on this agreement?

ROGIN: I mean, that -- I don't they promised imminent military action. And besides, if they did I don't think that's credible, especially considering what's going on right now and where South Korea is and where Beijing is.

Yes, it's the maximum pressure and the credible threat of military force got us to this point but that's over now. We're in a new phase. We're in the peacemaking phase and that's a total change of dynamic.

And as you pointed out -- as Trump pointed out, maximum pressure really isn't maximum anymore. The Chinese are letting it go. We're not going to put on new sanctions. We're not even going to do the military exercises.

So we're in a totally different dynamic and what we're going to see, at least for the next six months --heading into the 2018 election, by the way, which is probably not a coincidence --


ROGIN: -- is Trump as the peacemaker.

It's a good look for Trump politically, it just happens to be a terrible look for America in terms of national security because in order to keep this peace process going and to keep his peacemaker image alive the president has had to basically put his faith and trust and say this directly to Kim Jong Un.

What he said was all I can say is they want to make a deal. He believes that they want to make a deal.


ROGIN: He believes what Kim Jong Un told him, all right? That's usually not a safe bet when you're resting your hopes on the --

ROMANS: And --

ROGIN: -- assurances of a North Korean dictator.

ROMANS: And, David, a half a dozen of the reporters in the room asked the question again and again about human rights violations. How can you trust somebody who starves his own people, who has essentially concentration camps in his own country for dissenters, and has such a terrible reputation on human rights? How can you trust this man?

This is what the president said.


TRUMP: And I believe it's a rough situation over there -- there's no question about it -- and we did discuss it today pretty strongly. I mean, knowing what the main purpose of what we were doing is denuking, but discussed it and at pretty good length. We'll be doing something on it. It's rough. It's rough in a lot of

places, by the way, not just there -- but it's rough. And we will continue that and I think ultimately, we'll agree to something.

But it was discussed at length. Outside of -- outside of the nuclear situation, one of the primary topics.


ROMANS: I thought it was interesting that equivocated the North Korean regime -- it's rough other places, too. It doesn't sound like that was a main topic.

ROHDE: No, and like -- I'm sorry, but I want to hold Donald Trump accountable. He was incredibly rough on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau, Democrats. He's going easy on this brutal dictator. He's kind of waving his hands at human rights abuses.

And I think -- frankly, I feel for Mike Pompeo. I think this could all -- there's no agreement here. The president will claim there's a great agreement that he reached in private and there will be all this pressure on his aides to somehow produce one and I don't see how they do it.

And I -- you know, we'll see. The president will defend this deal and describe it to the American people but it's back to his sort of personal credibility. Will people believe him when he's so inconsistent? He's so rough on Iran and its human rights abuses but we give a pass to North Korea after this meeting.

[05:50:00] BRIGGS: A far cry from what President Trump said at the State of the Union. "No regime has oppressed its own citizens more brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea."

That was five months ago. We've come a long way.

We'll get world reaction from Beijing and from Seoul live, next on EARLY START.


BRIGGS: Five fifty-four eastern time.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was instrumental in getting President Trump and Kim Jong Un to meet face-to-face. President Moon telling members of his cabinet he had a sleepless night ahead of this historic summit.

So how is this all playing out in Seoul?

CNN's Nic Robertson answers that question for us, live this morning. Nic, good morning.

[05:55:05] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning to you, Dave. And a very big issue now that faces the South Korean leadership and President Moon is what we've heard from President Trump during his statements there that they're ending -- the United States has now decided to end these joint military exercises remembering that the forces here in South Korea -- U.S. forces -- are on a 'ready to fight tonight' footing. That means they're training at a level of preparedness that's usually important. The same, of course, for the South Korean forces here.

So this is something that perhaps could potentially lead to more sleepless nights for President Moon.

Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, did call his office -- another foreign minister here in South Korea here shortly after President Trump made that signature with Kim Jong Un. The brief -- the conversation between the two on the phone went well. The South Korean foreign minister thanking the secretary of state for quickly informing them and congratulating them on a successful summit.

But there was a key line that we've heard from the Foreign Ministry here and that was that they -- that they agreed they would -- that they would work together to have closer cooperation. And we don't know yet whether this announcement or how much of a surprise this announcement about the end of the joint military exercise is going to be.

But it comes to that point close cooperation in South Korea is feeling we put a lot into this and our hands are not so much on the -- on the details of it as perhaps we'd like -- Dave.

BRIGGS: He mentioned several times at stopping those military exercises. It saves a tremendous amount of money.

Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: And complained that South Korea, our ally, is not paying its fair share.

China, of course, has been watching this closely as well -- this historic meeting in Singapore between the president and Kim Jong Un.

Let's go to CNN's Matt Rivers, live in Beijing.

And Matt, this would seem to be a good outcome for the Chinese, right? The United States saying it would end its joint military exercises in South Korea, in its backyard.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly don't like those exercises either. They're on the same page as the North Koreans there.

And furthermore, in that press conference, Donald Trump brought up the option even though he said it's not on the table now -- but he said at some point he would like to see the removal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula overall. China loves the idea of that. But what China also did today is take this opportunity at the summit

to kind of remind everybody, through their Foreign Ministry, that the sanctions that have been so debilitating on the North Koreans over the past several years or so -- they've kind of reminded everyone that if North Korea follows the law, as they put it, those sanctions can be adjusted accordingly, including suspending them or lifting them.

China is implementing -- they're not saying they're not going to implement those sanctions, but they took this opportunity to remind everybody yes, we don't really like those sanctions very much, and they opened the door to maybe easing them.

That's something that we expect Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address with his Chinese counterparts when he comes here to Beijing on Thursday. But there's a rumor -- and it's nothing more than a rumor at this point, Christine -- that maybe Kim Jong Un might beat him to the punch.

Remember, he flew down to Singapore on an Air China jet. We're following this flight tracker app that's showing that an Air China plane is going to Singapore. Maybe Kim Jong Un goes on that plane on the way back. Maybe he stops here in Beijing when he does it.

ROMANS: Interesting, interesting. Oh, wow -- OK.

Matt Rivers, thanks so much for that. Clearly --

BRIGGS: Wow, that is fascinating reporting considering the Chinese just said that sanctions relief is possible and Kim Jong Un may fly to China first before returning home.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

John Berman is live in Singapore. Alisyn Camerota here in New York. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

We'll see you tomorrow.