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Trump & Kim Vow to Denuclearize North Korea. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2018 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- real language from North Korea on the issue at hand, and that's denuclearization. And the president surprised the world, announcing a new major concession to North Korea. The president announced the U.S. will stop what the president calls "war games," referring to the joint military exercises the U.S. conducts alongside North Korea.

[07:00:22] The president also said he did discuss human rights with Kim briefly, but he called Kim a very talented man -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, President Trump's big gamble was sealed with an historic handshake and praise for the North Korean dictator. President Trump says he has, quote, "an excellent relationship and a very special bond with Kim." Kim Jong-un now vows to leave the past behind.

So what does all that mean? Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She is live for us in Singapore. Give us the latest, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the president just left Singapore. He's settling in for a long flight back to Washington, D.C. But that lengthy press conference that the president held at the end of the day of his meetings with Kim Jong-un is just raising more questions about what, if anything, the United States got out of all of this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think he wants to get it done. I really feel that very strongly.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump telling reporters he'd trust North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to keep his word to abandon his nuclear arsenal. After the two leaders signed a joint agreement pledging to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

TRUMP: We'll be verifying. It will be verified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will you achieve that, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Well, it's going to be achieved by having a lot of people there.

COLLINS: In return, President Trump making a massive concession, agreeing to stop joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, exercises that greatly annoyed the North Korean leader.

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. But we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money, plus I think it's very provocative.

COLLINS: At a press conference immediately following the historic summit, President Trump was pressed repeatedly about North Korea's horrendous human rights record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The man you met today, Kim Jong-un, as you know, has killed family members, has starved his own people, is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. Why are you so comfortable calling him "very talented"?

TRUMP: Well, he is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.

COLLINS: Mr. Trump offering differing responses when asked whether he raised the issue with Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: It was discussed. It was discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization.

We did discuss it today pretty strongly. I mean, knowing what the main purpose of what we were doing is, denuking, but discussed it at pretty good length.

COLLINS: President Trump saying he would absolutely invite Kim Jong- un to the White House as both leaders pledge to continue negotiations at the earliest possible date.

TRUMP: Our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past. We have developed a -- a very special bond.


GRAPHIC: Today we have an historic meeting, and we have decided to leave the past behind. And we are about to sign an historic document. The world will see a major change.

COLLINS: The signing ceremony coming after nearly five hours of meetings on a historic day that began with both men shaking hands for the first time. President Trump and Kim Jong-un greeting each other with guarded smiles but appearing relaxed before meeting one on one with only their translators for nearly 40 minutes.

TRUMP: A really fantastic meeting. A lot of progress. It's really very positive. I think better than anybody could have expected. Top of the line. Really good.

COLLINS: The one on one followed by an expanded bilateral meeting with their top advisers, a working lunch, in all at least six different photo ops. Mr. Trump even giving Kim Jong-un a look inside the presidential limousine known as "The Beast."

TRUMP: It's my honor. And we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.


COLLINS: Now, John, even the South Koreans expressing some confusion here. The president said he was calling off those joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, something that is being seen as a massive concession on Trump's behalf. They issued a statement from the blue house saying, quote, "At this moment the meaning and intention of President Trump's remark requires more clear understanding." Saying essentially, they need to still figure out what the president even meant by that, John.

BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins here in Singapore. Kaitlan, thanks so much.

Joining me now CNN political and national security analyst and "New York Times" correspondent David Sanger; and CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto here with me, as well.

[07:05:10] David Sanger, the United States did suspend these joint exercises back in the '90s during one round of negotiations, but this time around you say it appears a little different.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He didn't talk about every resuming them. Maybe -- maybe he would, but he didn't say, "We're temporarily doing this. We're doing this for 50 days, a few months while we're getting this together."

And as it's clear from that statement that you just heard, he completely blindsided the South Koreans. So, the way -- the president doesn't think in terms of alliances. He thinks in terms of transactions. And in this case, in order to get the transaction here, which was a very vaguely worded statement -- we'll come to that in a moment -- he felt he needed to give something, and what he gave was a set of exercises that the Pentagon would tell you is the core of the military to military relationship with South Korea.

Now, does that mean skipping one or two is going to bring down readiness? No. If you never did them again, it certainly would.

BERMAN: You're talking about the language on denuclearization as being vague. I can read that for you a little bit. "Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula."

You know, Jim, the president made it sound like this was a firm, solid, new commitment from Kim. You know, in fact, the word "reaffirm" there just proves it isn't.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: True. Later in the document the language "to work toward denuclearization" is included. And with none of the specificity of timing, verification, et cetera. So you have that imbalance.

You have very specific concessions described by the president. Reversible, granted. But you could suspend those exercises and start them again. You could withdraw troops, as the president presented as a possibility, and send those troops back, I suppose. Although it's difficult once you take them off the peninsula.

Those very specific commitments from the president with nothing specific from the North Korean side.

And just for comparison, let's look back, if we can, to past agreements where you did get more specific language from the North Koreans. Just call up 2005. This was a result of six-party talks. President George W. Bush was president. If we put the language up on the screen.

But what they committed to them the DPRK said that they would -- and I'll read it for you -- "Committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty of the nonproliferation, the NPT and IAEA safeguards."

So in 2005, this is, of course, an agreement that North Korea later broke. Specific mentions of IAEA inspectors, specific mentions returning to the NPT, which involves a whole host of other commitments, you have none of that in this agreement.

And that is -- so when you look at what past presidents got and this president got in terms of North Korea does not compare well.

BERMAN: That's interesting, because President Trump will say, "Well, look, the North Koreans broke that agreement. What's different this time is me." And he's literally said what's different this time is who is president and who is secretary of state. And that might keep the North Koreans from breaking it.

One other piece of news the president announced, David, and you have some information on this. He said that Kim told him that he destroyed some kind of missile engine testing facility. What is it, and is that significant?

SANGER: This engine testing facility is where they built the engines which have Russian origin that powered those intercontinental ballistic missiles that they were setting off.

And they're very important, because if you don't conduct the tests you can't figure out the thrust of the engine. You can't build the intercontinental missile.

Now, it's possible that they've now solved most of the major problems, but as of last week, 38 North, a group that monitors a lot of this is beginning to report that they saw indications on satellite imagery that the test site was being blown up.

It's a very famous photograph of Kim at this test site when they were testing what became the missiles that did the intercontinental. Just back to Jim's point here for a minute. What the president did

today was basically build a relationship and then say, I'm now turning it over to Mike Pompeo to make this work. Mike Pompeo is now in the position that John Kerry was in at the beginning of the Iran talks.


SANGER: President doesn't want to talk about it in that regard because he doesn't think much of the Iran talks and the negotiations. I tried in one of the questions to get him to sort of say, "I've got to do better than that." He didn't take the bait on it.

So, this is going to be a long process in which we're going to begin to learn how the North Koreans defined denuclearization. The fact that they've -- they are destroying this test site, engine test site, that they destroyed their nuclear test site, or at least conducted some explosions there.

We don't know how much they destroyed it, tells you they're willing to go somewhere down the line. The betting word for most people who know North Korea is they're looking for arms control, not arms elimination. They're looking to cut things down but never give everything up. The president would not go there today when we tried to press him on that.

SCIUTTO: And that's the CIA's assessment, as well, the president would have been briefed on is that North Korea, they don't believe have the intention to completely give it up, because it's so tied to their survival.

And again, the way they define denuclearization, specifically, this language again on the peninsula is a broader -- you know, we're going to be denuclearizing as you are, by the way.

Your submarines, your planes, your nuclear umbrella, maybe that will have to be diminished, as well. There was something interesting. I think we have footage of it right now. At the beginning of the news conference, the White House played this video, which I understand the president showed to Kim on an iPad. It was some kind of almost like a real-estate, you know, video to sell you something.

SANGER: It went on before the president took the stage, and we thought well, maybe the Singaporeans are doing an ad for Singapore until it became clear that this was in Korean and so forth. It turns out that the president had somebody make a video that sort of looked at the future. And it was a very Trumpian future. It had big, beautiful buildings in it.

BERMAN: Inside North Korea.

SANGER: Inside North Korea. Initially when I looked at it, I thought, well, they're basically saying you're going to be like South Korea, look like Seoul. And then he -- the president came out and said, "Well, we showed this video to -- to President Kim. He said he was very interested in it. That's a different thing from saying he liked it. OK?

BERMAN: Interested and liked are two different things. Believe me. I know from experience.

SCIUTTO: We'll close the prison camps first. Here is the thing --

BERMAN: Well, no, but human rights is a huge issue here. The human rights issue, the president was pressed on this repeatedly by reporters in the room. The president said he did bring up human rights, albeit briefly. But then the language he used to describe Kim. He said, you know, he's a very talented man. He said North Korea is a rough place, but there's a lot of rough places.

SCIUTTO: This is -- this is classic Trump what about-ism. I mean, he said that regarding Russia. You'll recall an interview a number of months ago, that, look, Putin has done a lot of bad things, but America has done a lot of bad things. That is -- that is what our adversaries normally do. Right? This what-about-ism. You preach to us, but you're not so good yourself. Trump kind of doing some of the work there himself.

But I'll tell you, looking at Kim almost as a young man who took over his father's business. You know, "It was tough for him to take it over as 25." I'm sorry. He's a dictator who assumed power because it's a dictatorship and he's the son of the previous dictator. And by the way, to keep power, he killed a number of his relatives along the way, as well as some of whom he took into a sports stadium and shot with an anti-aircraft gun. This is -- you've got to remember, this is who we're talking about here.

BERMAN: It was interesting for me over the last ten hours or so to watch Kim. I mean, we -- the first time we really got to see him at all was with President Moon of South Korea. But now, you know, with the American president sitting side by side making the statement, thanking the president, talking about all the obstacles that he has overcome or the world has overcome to get here, David, I wonder what struck you. I mean, it was a remarkable image of the two men.

SANGER: I guess three things struck me. First of all, Kim has had his coming out party in the past couple of months. He's met the president of China twice. He's met the president of South Korea twice. He's met the president of the United States once.

He took a walking tour of sort of night life in Singapore, right, looked like, you know, he was having a pretty good time, seeing what was going on. North Korean media later on, you know, described Singapore in terms of what North Korea might like to be like.

The second thing is he goes home having had a one-to-one meeting with the president of the United States, something his father and his grandfather never accomplished. He's clearly regarded as a world leader in the eyes, at least, of his own people. That gives him a significant boost.

The third thing is, he can go home and he said, "I didn't give them anything. I gave them a reworded version of what my grandfather committed to in 1992, what my father committed to in 2005 and 2008, and we'll see how these negotiations go and what we get for them. But right now nothing ventured. Nothing gained." BERMAN: "I didn't give them anything" is going to be the sentence

that is argued over, I think, for the coming days between supporters of the president and people, analysts looking at this. And Jim, the president in a sense responded to that.

He said, "Look, I'll sit on a stage with anybody if there's any chance of peace. Coming here was worth it, full stop."

SCIUTTO: And remember, we do have to remember that a few months ago, military action was a real possibility, not just public comments, fire and fury. It was our reporting that there were serious discussions internally about this. And any military action in that context, you're talking about the danger of the loss of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.

You know, this is -- this would be no small conflict to be where we are today, as opposed to their -- that is enormous progress. The question is, what do you do substantially to reduce North Korea's nuclear threat? From this statement, we don't know.

[07:15:09] BERMAN: Right. And the ball is in Mike Pompeo's court in these meetings that will take place as soon as next week.

David Sanger, Jim Sciutto, great to have you with us. The president on his way home, Alisyn. Kim on his way back to North Korea. It will be fascinating to see the receptions that both men receive.

CAMEROTA: Indeed it will. So we will be watching back here today.

Meanwhile, the Trump/Kim summit was filled with lots of photo ops and of course, this written agreement, but what does it say and what will come out of it? And how are the media all across the spectrum, from right to left, covering it? Jake Tapper joins us for that conversation, next.


CAMEROTA: OK. President Trump has just ended this historic summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. And he held his first full news conference in more than a year.

The president says he trusts that Kim will stick by this agreement that both men signed today in Singapore. And he surprised the world when he said he would end the war games, as he calls them, those joint military exercises, with South Korea.


[07:20:06] 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. But we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money, plus I think it's very provocative.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is the anchor of "THE LEAD," Jake Tapper, also the author of the fabulous historical novel "The Hellfire Club," climbing up the bestseller list day after day. Great to see you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you, Alisyn. Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's just start right there. What did we -- we know that ostensibly, the north has given up their nuclear arsenal, so what has the U.S. given up for this?

TAPPER: Well, not so fast. Right? I know you're being cheeky with that, but the fact is that the North Koreans have made this promise before. They have signed documents along these lines before. And in fact, if you read the statement, it says that Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, reaffirmed. Meaning he said it before. He wants to -- he's saying it again.

CAMEROTA: And his father and his grandfather, as well. But do you think that it's possible, because he now has a personal relationship with President Trump that this time we will see it?

TAPPER: Look, anything is possible. And, you know, of course, President Trump and the Trump administration should be applauded for attempting to solve this problem through diplomatic means. No question.

I am skeptical of North Korea. I don't think that that makes me an unusual individual in this country. I'm skeptical of North Korea. I am skeptical that they have actually agreed to do anything much more than they've already agreed to do and violated in previous treaties and previous efforts by other presidents.

Now, President Trump is very sure of himself and confident of his ability to get this done. And I hope he is right. I hope he is correct. But, as of now, I see no evidence that the North Koreans are really on any sort of path to denuclearization.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, President Trump is quite confident, as you said.

TAPPER: He is.

CAMEROTA: He has given a one on one interview to ABC, so let's listen to that moment.


TRUMP: He trusts me, I believe. I really do. I mean, he said openly and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows that no other president ever could have done this. I mean, no other -- he knows the presidents. He knows who we had in front of me. He said no other president could have done this. I think he trusts me and I trust him.


CAMEROTA: No other sitting U.S. president has done this.

TAPPER: Well, that's true. Although, it is also fair -- and, again, I don't want to belittle the attempt being made for peace here by President Trump -- but it is also true that previous presidents could have had one-on-one summits with Kim Jong-un or Kim Jong-un -- or Kim Jong-il, I mean. And the concern was that you don't want to give North Korea that kind of prestige. You don't want to elevate them without having something guaranteed in terms of what they actually are willing to do, in terms of denuclearization and in terms of what Secretary of State Pompeo constantly refers to as irreversible and verifiable denuclearization.

So, it's not as if other presidents couldn't have done this. It's that they didn't want to. That's the big difference.

CAMEROTA: OK. So back to my question about what the U.S. has conceded. So no joint military exercises with South Korea. That's an interesting one, because those are what gave South Korea some feeling of security.

TAPPER: Right.

CAMEROTA: Now they may feel more precarious in this new situation.

TAPPER: Although they have been pushing for this more than anyone, to be fair to President Trump. President Moon and the South Korean government has been pushing for this summit. They are the ones who really led the way on this.

So -- so, I've seen some reporting this morning that the South Koreans, not all of them necessarily in the government, knew about this pledge to cancel this joint military exercise. That said, I don't believe that we're going to hear any word of concern from South Korea. They have really been pushing for this the whole time.

CAMEROTA: OK. We just got a message in here from Barbara Starr, our Pentagon reporter, who says that there were joint military exercises scheduled for August, so in other words this summer, between South Korea and the U.S. And I don't know, I mean, I guess those have been cancelled for the moment.

TAPPER: What was unusual: hearing President Trump describe those joint military exercises as "provocative." That's a word that the North Koreans would use about those military exercises.

Now, it's true that, in the name of peace, it's probably a good gesture to cancel these or at least not do them in August, but by the same token -- and he did -- and he did hold out the possibility that they'll return if future negotiations aren't going the way he wants them to.

But it is a significant concession. And it's interesting for the president of the United States to refer to U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises as provocative, because really, that's the point of view of the North Korean.

[06:25:03] CAMEROTA: So also, you know, bonding with a North Korean dictator does require some level of putting blinders on to the human rights abuses. TAPPER: Sure. Horrific human rights abuses. They have gulags. I

mean, they have more than 100,000 North Koreans locked up for their political views and their families with them. I mean, obviously, Otto Warmbier, the American student who allegedly vandalized something, he's now dead because of North Korean human rights abuses.

CAMEROTA: Look, President Trump talked about that. He said that he felt that it was Otto Warmbier, that that moment, that tragedy was what sort of broke the damn. He credited Otto Warmbier with being the tipping point here. I mean, whether that is true or not, that's how he interpreted it.

TAPPER: Yes. It's a nice sentiment, and I believe that his feelings are very heartfelt when it comes to the Warmbier family, but the truth of the matter is, this is a despotic regime. They abuse their people. It is almost unparalleled when it comes to the human rights abuses that the North Korean government imposes upon its people.

You know, I'm sure you've seen North Koreans and South Koreans in terms of the starvation of the North Koreans. South Koreans, I think, are -- the average South Korean is taller, weighs more and, obviously, it's the same people.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, President Trump was asked about those human rights abuses at the press conference. So listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The man you met today, Kim Jong-un, as you know, has killed family members, has starved his own people, is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. Why are you so comfortable calling him "very talented"?

TRUMP: Well, he is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you, President Trump, expect him Kim Jong- un to do with the human rights abuses with regard to the North Korean people?

TRUMP: It was discussed. It was discussed little compared to the denuclearization that's where we started and where we ended. But they will be doing things. And I think he wants to do things. I think he wants to -- you would be very surprised. Very smart. Very good negotiator. Wants to do the right thing.

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 at pretty good length. We'll be doing something on it. It's -- it's rough. It's rough in a lot of places, by the way.


CAMEROTA: So interesting to hear how he frames Kim Jong-un. He took over this situation at 26 and ran it. I mean, it's hard not to hear some level of projection when the president talks like that.

TAPPER: Well, there are two things going on here, I think. First of all, he is trying to negotiate peace. So, you have to take that into consideration with how he's talking about this despotic dictator, right? I mean, he is -- he's trying to achieve peace. You're not going to go there and be candid about how horrible he has been.

But beyond that, there is a whole -- there are years' worth of words that the president has given when it comes to praise for autocrats and criticism of people who run democracies.

And it is just, as a matter of fact, he has said -- you know, he praised the leaders of China for putting down the Tiananmen Square massacre, as strong. I asked him about that during a debate years ago. He just has an admiration for autocrats, seemingly, at least based on his -- the adjectives he selects, that you can't get away from.

But that said, I do view this in the context of him trying to be diplomatic about somebody he's trying to negotiate peace with.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. We will talk about the feeling of the allies, if you'll stick around.

TAPPER: I will, of course.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

We're going to take a very quick break, because the president talked about this picture right here that we have shown you, where the allies surrounded him and the body language of this photo. So, why Mr. Trump now says this tense scene is not what it appears to be. That's next.