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North Korea Outlines Plan to Fire Missile near Guam; Governor: No Panic in Guam; Trump Slams McConnell again over Health Bill Failure; GOP Source: Trump made Health Bill Passage "Much Harder". Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 10, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, top of the hour. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. It is 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
And not only is North Korea not intimidated by that stark and unscripted warning from President Trump, it put out a new and quite detailed warning of its own in response. A senior North Korean general says he's drawing up a plan to launch four medium range missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam, landing less than 25 miles off the coast. Supposedly the plan will go to Kim Jong-un for his signoff in just days.
Meantime, the war of words continues, North Korea media calling the fire and fury threat from President Trump, quote, "a load of nonsense" from a leader they call, quote, "bereft of reason." Now, they rule out dialogue saying that only absolute force can work.
We have live coverage throughout the region. Let's begin though with Will Ripley who has been to Pyongyang more than a dozen times. He joins us from Beijing. Of course, China, keep playing in all of this. Will, your assessment of this response from North Korea?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we expected, Poppy, Pyongyang is really upping the ante in this war of words with Washington, specifically, with President Trump. Instead of backing down, this statement dials up the rhetoric even further, personally insulting President Trump saying that he lacks knowledge of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. That he can't be reasoned with. That North Korea has to use absolute force in dealing with him.
But also, what really makes this different from North Korean threats. North Korean often threatens to attack U.S. territories. They've threatened to attack Guam. They've threatened many times to attack and annihilate the United States in Washington. But to lay out such a detailed, technical plan, that's what makes this so unusual. Saying, they will use the Hwasong-12 rockets, an intermediate range rocket that can travel at least 2300 miles putting Guam, which is only 2100 miles from the Korean Peninsula, potentially within striking range, saying that they will fire these rockets up over Japan and put them down in the waters less than 20 miles from Guam. The fact that they are being so detailed here indicates that either, one, they are bluffing and this is all written down in an attempt to kind of add bluster, but that they don't have any plan of following through or they technically feel that they have the capability to do this and they feel so confident about it. That they will put the plan on paper as almost a warning to Washington not to test North Korea's resolved.
I will say this, Poppy. I've talked to North Korean officials, as recently as a month and a half ago. All of these weapons in their arsenal that they are developing are designed as a deterrent. They say that they do not want to use them, although, they also say they are not afraid to use them. This entire investment in this huge arsenal is to keep Kim Jong-un in power. And the North Koreans know they are outdone if they actually do start some sort of a war with the United States. And the end result would not be good for them.
HARLOW: Will Ripley, thank you very much for that.
Now to Guam, our Ivan Watson is there. And Ivan, this is not the first time that Guam and the people of Guam have dealt with the threat.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Shortly after Kim Jong-un took office after the death of his father, the previous leader of North Korea, he made threats against Guam, which is the western most piece of American territory, also a home to several major U.S. military installations. And after those threats came, the U.S. military deployed the THAAD missile defense system here, which more recently has also been deployed in South Korea to help protect that region, that country from ongoing threats coming from Pyongyang.
So, the governor of Guam, who I spoke with at length today, he insists that the threat level has not been increased in response to the statement that will describe and show to you three. He also pointed out, that there's no panic on the streets or the beaches of this island. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON (on camera): There's no panic in Guam.
GOV. EDDIE CALVO (R), GUAM: I'm sure you have talked to people who live in Seoul or even Tokyo. I think the concerns are even more wady (ph) over there, which is closer to the action, particularly Seoul where enemy artillery is within range of the inhabitants of Seoul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: There's concern here, people are concerned. They are instructing their kids what to do any event that emergency sirens go off. But I saw a lot of people swimming and snorkeling in the beach in the bay behind me today as well. Poppy?
HARLOW: Ivan Watson, thank you for that perspective. It's important to be on the ground and talking to them there. We appreciate it live in Guam. [10:05:01] South Korea, for its part, is saying it is so open and ready for dialogue, diplomacy with its neighbor. Our Anna Coren joins me now from Seoul with that. I mean, this has been the strategy of President Moon since he was elected and clearly, the South Koreans are still hanging on to that.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's quite incredible. Isn't it, Poppy? I mean, South Koreans have been living with this threat for decades. And ever since President Moon Jae-in came into power earlier this year, he has opened the doors for dialogue with North Korea. Obviously, the North Koreans haven't taken him up on that offer, but he has persisted.
Interestingly, however, there has been some sort of political shift in the climate here in South Korea ever since North Korea successfully tested that ICBM at the end of last month. That's when President Moon, he reversed his decision to actually suspend the THAAD missile defense system. And then, there's also been a call by political conservative politicians, I should say, in this country for the re-introduction of America's tactical nuclear weapon, something that was withdrawn from South Korea in the 1990s.
So, I definitely think it's fair to say that while South Koreans are very calm and cool and measured, when it comes to threats from North Korea, as far as the government is concerned, as far as this president is concerned, whilst they are open to dialogue, they are also very aware that they need to beef up their own defenses because of that perceived threat from the North. Poppy?
HARLOW: Right. And as Will Ripley report last hour, the U.S., South Korea will have those joint military exercises together as well, this month to show force to the North. Thank you very, very much from the reporting from Seoul.
Joining us now, Kelsey Davenport, director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, an important voice today, of course, and Colonel Peter Mansoor, former aide to General David Petraeus. It's nice to have you both here.
And Colonel, you said something interesting that I'd love you to explain to our viewers. You say, it's essential for President Trump -- you believe to put the military option on the table, front and center, like he is right now, for diplomacy to work. Explain.
COL. PETER MANSOOR, FORMER AIDE TO GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, that's exactly right. For two decades now, diplomacy has done nothing to halt North Korean nuclear program or its missile development. Henry Kissinger once said that diplomacy without a threat of force is like an orchestra without instruments. And in this case, unless Kim Jong-un believes that the military lever of power is actually on the table and that we would use it, he will just continue to do what he is doing, in developing ICBM, miniaturizing his nuclear warheads. So, I actually think that in this case, the threat of force is -- can be a valuable addition to our diplomacy, but it has to be used very, very delicately. HARLOW: Kelsey, you would disagree. I mean, you make the argument that diplomacy, -- that talks have worked. But if that's the case, why are we where we are now? Why has North Korea accelerated its development so much?
KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION POLICY, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: Well, I think, that what the White House really needs to be doing now is making a more concerted effort to send a direct signal to North Korea that it's willing to engage in talks. President Trump's threats, the fiery rhetoric are just inviting North Korea to make additional threats of its own and increasing the chance of miscalculation.
Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is talking about negotiations and that's good. But when you have the Secretary of State making one message and you have threats coming from the president, it's difficult for North Korea to know how to respond and that increases the chance of miscalculation.
HARLOW: But what about the lessons from history. I mean, it didn't work in the Clinton administration, the Bush administration and the Obama administration, because the program just carried on, despite some brief pauses and accelerated to where we are today, Kelsey. I think that's the core of my question is, who is to say that it will work when history has shown otherwise.
DAVENPORT: Well, I disagree slightly about how diplomacy with North Korea has worked in the past. The United States negotiated bilaterally with North Korea in the '90s. And while that agreement did ultimately fall apart, it did halt North Korea's production of plutonium for nuclear weapons for a number of years. And multilateral talks with North Korea during the Bush administration, you know, yielded similar results, a halt in the program.
So, I think that demonstrates that we can engage with North Korea in talks if there's a concerted effort. And that's what the Obama - what the Trump administration needs to be signaling now. I don't think the Obama administration made a concerted effort to try and engage with North Korea. They relied too much on sanctions to push North Korea to the table. That's not a strategy and that's not going to work now.
HARLOW: Colonel, do you agree with Kelsey, diplomacy is still the way to have success here?
MANSOOR: Well, I will just point out that the agreed framework that - President Clinton negotiated fell apart.
[10:10:02] HARLOW: She said that.
MANSOOR: The talks that President Bush entered into did fall apart when North Korea detonated a nuclear device in 2006.
Look, the only way to end North Korea or freeze North Korea's nuclear program and missile program is to put enough pressure on them with all levers of power so that they come to the table in good faith. And that's what they have not done in the past two decades. HARLOW: What about the rhetoric that's been used, Kelsey? I mean, the president using words, akin to Truman after the first atomic bomb was dropped, fire and fury and like the world has never seen before. We've learned since he made those remarks, they were contemporaneous. These were sort of not passed by his team and they were off-the-cuff, your take?
DAVENPORT: Well, it still sends a dangerous signal to North Korea that the United States is willing to escalate the rhetoric as North Korea escalates rhetoric of its own. You know since Trump made those comments North Korea has made a more specific threat than its usual level of threat toward Guam.
Now, it's critical that the United States not respond by increasing the level of rhetoric further and look for options to deescalate the situation. I certainly agree that there needs to be pressure on North Korea to get them to talk but talks and pressure need to go hand in hand. And right now, there's a diplomacy deficit when it comes to outreach to North Korea.
HARLOW: Kelsey, thank you very much. Colonel, thank you as well. We appreciate the perspective from both of you.
So, President Trump has drawn his own red line, you heard it very clearly. The question now becomes this morning, what happens if North Korea crosses it? We are talking to -- a Republican member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, next.
Also, he's the man President Trump needs to get his legislation through Congress. That is not stopping him from taking direction aim in public at Mitch McConnell.
And FBI agent now in Cuba after a bizarre attack on some U.S. embassy employees, two diplomats facing serious hearing problems from what they are calling an acoustic attack. What exactly happened and could another country be involved? We'll take you live to Havana.
[10:16:37] HARLOW: A pretty unprecedented exchange of threats between Washington and Pyongyang intensifies North Korea now outlining a plan to fire several ballistic missiles right into the waters off of the U.S. territory of Guam.
Joining me now to discuss, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, he also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, it's nice to have you. And you issued a public statement about this recently. And you said, the red line is not North Korea launching a nuclear weapon at the United States. You said it's sooner than that. You say, the red line must be Kim Jong-un can never have the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States. Well, all U.S. Intelligence signs that we have seen this week point to them either being at that capability or very close. So, therefore, red line, what should the U.S. response be?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it's certainly, the reporting over the course the last few days of the Intelligence estimate show that there's more of an urgency, more of a time sensitivity that any type of option that exists. Whether it's multilateral diplomacy or through increased economic pressure, everything has gotten condensed.
One of the unknowns is whether or not North Korea has the ability for their nuclear warhead to survive re-entry from the upper atmosphere -
ZELDIN: -- which is unlikely, but it certainly, no doubt the timeline has been greatly condensed. It is just recent, over the course of the last several days where you have a massive step taken by the United Nations Security Council with that unanimous vote, which China and Russia voting yes for what is over a third of North Korea's exports being cut off. So, you have ramped up multilateral diplomacy in recent days. -
HARLOW: But are you saying, the red line -
On your red line comment, though, Congressman, are you saying that that red line has, therefore, not yet been crossed, in your mind?
ZELDIN: I don't believe that North Korea, yet, has the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States. I do believe, though, that they are getting very close. So, any other option of -- go ahead.
HARLOW: So, given that, the language from the president, fire and fury, like the world has never seen before, contemporaneous comments we have learned, are you comfortable with that?
ZELDIN: Well, if there was military action by Pyongyang -- I mean, there would be fire and fury in the response if --
HARLOW: But that's not what he said. He said -- hold on, he said North Korea -- best not threaten the United States again. So, he was just talking about threats. Are you comfortable with that level of rhetoric in response to threats?
ZELDIN: No. As far as there being a threat of -- I mean, there's a lot of propaganda that comes from Kim Jong-un and his administration. In many respects, they are speaking to their own people with that rhetoric. They speak to the rest of the world with that rhetoric and to us here in the United States. But I don't believe that we should actually be using military action against North Korea for what is just standard practice by North Korea with coming up with provocative statements all of the time.
[10:20:09] That, alone, shouldn't be enough for military action. It would need to be a little bit more than that.
HARLOW: OK. So, it sounds like you want the president to tone it down a little bit, which he has this morning. We haven't heard anything. Unless you disagree with that assessment, let's move on to what's going on inside your own party, which is a complete war of words between President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who - I mean, it's just the back and forth, the back and forth. They had a call last night that was deemed animated, a very diplomatic way to say it over health care. And then this morning, the president tweets, can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done. Must repeal and replace Obamacare!
Is that a winning tactic for your party on this one, do you think?
ZELDIN: Well, I think that -- I don't know -- the back and forth between the president and the Senate majority leader isn't going to add any additional votes to the Obamacare repeal effort. I was at a meeting with one of the Senate Republicans going back a few weeks ago and I said, do you have three or more moderate senators in your conference who won't vote for Obamacare repeal, no matter what it says and he said yes. I just think that while they have a majority as it relates to some legislation being able to pass, having the gavels for oversight, being able to confirm a Supreme Court justice, setting the agenda, I just don't know if they have a majority to repeal Obamacare at this point, regardless of, you know, what might go back and forth between the president - and the majority leader.
HARLOW: At all. Just to be clear, you are saying you don't think that your party, at least in the Senate, has the votes, at all, no matter what changes in the legislation to fully repeal Obamacare?
ZELDIN: Yes, I don't -- I just don't see it over on the Senate side, the votes to repeal Obamacare at all. On the House side, you know, there are - I mean, we've passed hundreds of bills that are now over on the Senate, dozens that also passed the Senate and were signed by the president, including legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. But I just don't know where the votes are over on the Senate to get to 51 right now.
HARLOW: Thank you very much. We appreciate it, Congressman Zeldin.
ZELDIN: Good to see you.
HARLOW: More on the president's feud that we just talked about with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, maybe not popular with lawmakers. But does it help him with his base, next.
[10:27:11] HARLOW: We have not heard from the president yet this morning on the North Korea threat. However, the president has written in a statement, on Twitter, another insult and hurled it at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Kaitlan Collins joins us with more. No love lost between these two gentlemen?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: There's certainly not, Poppy. We are seeing this feud between the president and Mitch McConnell really escalates. This is the second day in a row that he has tweeted his very public frustrations with McConnell. And this all got started on Monday when McConnell made some comments about the president and his very high expectations. Let's listen to what McConnell had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before. And I think that excessive expectations and how quickly things happen in the Democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, as you know, Poppy, the president also tweeted about McConnell yesterday and then again this morning. Today, he was writing, can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done. Must repeal and replace Obamacare!
As you know, Poppy, the president and Mitch McConnell did speak on the phone yesterday in what is being described as a very animated conversation. And these attacks are really astounding. Mitch McConnell is the one person in Washington who plays an integral role in implementing Donald Trump's agenda here. And he's someone that the president needs to be on good terms with.
What makes this all the more complicated is that Mitch McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, works in the president's administration. And the president has a point, Republicans have promised for several years, that they would repeal and replace Obamacare. And as with you and I, both know, we saw that fail about a month ago. But this also falls on the president as well. He is the leader of the Republican Party. He has majorities and we never saw him campaign much on behalf of this health care bill besides some tweets. So, there's a little bit of responsibility that falls on Donald Trump here as well.
We have seen him distance himself from the Republican Party at times, saying, -- referring to Republicans as they and they need to get this done and they have promised this. And we haven't even seen this as a White House narrative. They said that yes, Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but Republicans promised it long before he did. Poppy?
HARLOW: I do think he promised it though on day one. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.
Joining me now, former RNC communications director, Doug Heye and Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager. And in the spirit of Mitch McConnell's language choice, I have excessive expectations that this is going to be a very lively conversation, gentlemen.
So, Doug, let me -
DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We're going to disappoint you.
HARLOW: Would say that. Let me start with you because you are the RNC guy. You're the communications guy on that front.